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Linking In Why And How

Oct 01, 2009

 

LinkedIn Overview
 

B2B CFO®, is a national CFO Services firm focused on emerging and mid market companies, that has grown from a handful of partners in 2004, to nearly 120 partners today.  During that time the partners have built their individual client bases, and today we have total client revenue of over $3 billion.

Whether you are looking for a job or looking for clients for a consulting business, there’s really no question about the best approach:  Networking. 
 LinkedIn is a “social media” site that was developed specifically to help professionals and business people make connections.  It has grown rapidly to have over 38 million members - mostly high income   professionals and business people.  Will it solve all of life’s problems, bring you unsolicited job offers and improve your social life?  Maybe.  But it’s just a tool..and you must learn how to use it to make things happen.  What can you use LinkedIn for?  Here’s my ever growing list:

 
    * Enhance and Expand your current networking
    * Use it to establish and enhance credibility
    * Catalog your testimonials and references
    * Research potential employers, partners or clients
    * Find a new job or new employee
    * Be found – LinkedIn profiles get high Google ranks
    * Share knowledge and expertise
    * Introduce connections
    * Cheaper marketing efforts
    * Business Development through Alliances and Partnerships
    * Develop your Thought Leadership Status

The nice thing is that it does not have to happen overnight.  LinkedIn is like a Wiki about YOU.  You can work it whenever you have some spare time, and it will continue to grow.  In the darkest night of self-doubt you can blow away the cob-webs and be pro-active about building contact lists, researching companies, finding resources.

 

So how do you use LinkedIn to find that next position?  One of the best pieces of career advice I ever received was, “Stop looking for a job. Start looking to meet people.” 

  • Leverage your new contacts. For each new person you meet, ask, “Can you please suggest at least two other people who could be helpful to me?” Help them to think by suggesting: employer, trusted advisor, friend etc. Because most people want to be helpful, they will almost always share at least one additional contact – and it’s much easier for people to respond to a job search this way. 
  • Bring Offline to Online Worlds.  Search for people on LinkedIn that you meet. Read about them, find them at conferences and seminars and try and set up LinkedIn contact.  Each new contact will bring a wealth of additional possibilities.
  • Network using Groups.  Join groups, create groups and find out which groups your preferred contacts are in. Go offline and shake hands with real people.
  •  Build your Reputation: Use Questions and Answers and recommendations to establish yourself as an expert.  Really set yourself apart from the generic 50-something CFO resume.
  • Stay in touch. Invite offline contacts to join you on LinkedIn.  Explain the benefits to new users.  Post frequent updates on LinkedIn, including links to people you’ve met, companies you’ve discovered, or new products or services you find along the way. Your contacts will be able to see your updates and it gives them a reason to stay in touch. And of course, when you land a project or job, send out a big note of thanks and an update on your coordinates to the people who have been helpful to you.


Developing Your Profile


Linkedin is a remarkable tool for building “The Brand that is You.”  It is free to create an account, but don’t let that fool you, or lull you into creating a half-assed profile.  As an active user, I constantly review potential contacts.  When I see the half-hearted effort with some basic data, no picture and three contacts, I often form an immediate impression – and it’s not good.  I might…, just might,  contact that person to help improve their profile, but only if I view them as a strong potential contact.  Be aware, people will be checking your LinkedIn profile more and more, and if you don’t measure up they will skip to the next contact.  It’s like the difference between Black & White and Color…please don’t be grey!
 
So, how do we build a profile?  Just like resume advice, there is plenty of it – sometimes conflicting, so I’m not going to dive too deep.  Instead I will share some of my thoughts, you can find many guides, webinars and articles on line.

 

   1. Photo – If you are going to post a photo – and I think you should, since it’s a human connection and a way for people to separate you from the crowd – post a professional shot, not a crop from last summer’s beach photo, or a self-portrait in the mirror with flash accompaniment, or the glamour shot you had for match-making but never used.

   2. Resume – you can post your resume summary here.  Most important are company names, titles, college.  Understand that LinkedIn is highly searchable, so your objective is to be found.  Company names will automatically tie you to and help you find others, and help others find you.
   3. Links – you can be liberal with links.  There are several canned web site links and you can build links with a bit of HTML knowledge.  Link to your resume, to your prior companies, to associations etc.

   4. Accomplishments – typical resume advice is to list accomplishments with numbers and %s.  In LinkedIn you are going for key words in the profiles section.  You can list your software experience, specializations, credentials, hobbies (someone may be looking for a sailing buddy/ CFO!).    5. Why am I here – Consider a section specifying what you are looking for.  Soar beyond the usual “Challenging financial position, yada, yada”, and get specific.  Get creative too.  See mine at http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidkirkup

   6. Specialties – Just in case you missed anything you can pile on with keywords here.  Cities worked, associations, skills, famous people, seminars… anything that will help people find you.


Other sections of the profile we will cover in future articles:


    * Groups – join many as you can – I have 50!
    * Recommendations – like Ebay – would you buy from someone with no recommendations?
    * Q & A – Answer questions, and ask them to create discussions that showcase your credibility.
    * Applications – Blogs, PPTs all add to your rep.


Building a Reputation on LinkedIn

 

On LinkedIn you can list a summary resume, details of your past work history, your current employment or situation, and other pieces of information.  All of this can present a picture of you but doesn’t neccesarily convey your reputation or credibility, nor does it separate you from the pack.  Hate to say it, but there are many potential competing CFO’s with your general background and experience.

 

But LinkedIn has a number of features that help you establish credibility and build your reputation. 1.    Profile Completed?:  Your goal on LinkedIn is to be found and once found to be seen as interesting/ different/ relevant.  The more information you present, the more likely you are to be found. What if someone is searching for a CFO and they have five on their list.  Who’s more likely to catch the reviewer’s attention?  The person with a slim LinkedIn profile who does not “seem” interested, or the person who has taken the time to build a killer profile?  Go back to Article 1 in this series if you have not built a killer profile.

 2.    Q & A:  With the Answers section you have the ability to both ask and to answer questions.  Both can have a positive impact on your reputation. The questions you ask will say something about who you are and the level of experience you possess.  But, don’t ask pointless, self-serving spam-like questions.  You want to focus on asking questions that will generate thoughtful responses.  “Are companies finding ERP system implementation to be disappointing?”  Answer your own question if no-one takes the bait. In the Answers you can share your knowledge and display expertise and experience.  Link to White Papers hosted on your web site – buy a cheap site and just use it to store documents, or now post PDF files on your LinkedIn Profile.

3.    Recommendations:  Another opportunity to pay it forward.  This is a great way to build a reputation bank, by discovering old colleagues and making contact.  This is not the place to give a recommendation in return just because you received one.  Many times a reciprocal recommendation will be obvious in the Status update – it just looks fake.  As a job hunter you should look for client, colleague and even employee recommendations.

The three areas discussed will start to build credibility, and separate you from the pack.  A further benefit from answering questions and getting recommendations is that all your contacts will see this information in their Status Update.  Thus you give your network multiple, credible touches and people will visit your profile based on these links.  Another benefit to providing a recommendation is that you create a link on the recommended person’s profile page to your profile.  People will often look to see who provided the recommendation.  This is just another way to draw traffic to your profile.

 

Linkedin is poised for even more dramatic growth and will likely become a “go to” site for employers.  Just as you are Googled before the interview, you may be “LinkedIn” to see if you are worthy of consideration.  Don’t wait to join the parade.    Using LinkedIn for Job Networking

 
I have had various periods of unemployment during my career as a CFO.  At different times the process of finding a new position has seemed daunting.  In the old days you sent out a lot of resumes, contacted recruiters and hoped for the best.  If you were lucky enough to be introduced to the Financial Executive Networking Group, you were schooled in the Matt Bud way.  Networking became the mantra – reaching out to FENG members and continuing the other approaches.  But I always felt like I was exploring the tip of the ice berg, while a vast world was unavailable to me because of my lack of contacts, experiences, exposures to many people.

 Today, with LinkedIn, your ability to “map” the submerged iceberg is dramatically enhanced. In 2001 I lost a position as CFO and was forced to job hunt.  I entered outplacement where I futilely sent our letters, scoured job ads, devoured my nightly Matt Bud message and attempted to network.  Eventually, I found a position through networking – a friend of a friend suggested I contact a company…

 If I was in the same situation today, it would be a different story. First, my network would be up to date  and constantly expanding through LinkedIn.  I would have started by seeking connections to people in my network that were located in Atlanta and in my industry. I would have joined as many Atlanta based Groups as I could find. I would have also started searching available jobs to see how I was connected to it, and then work my way in by linking to board members, officers, former employees, vendors and customers.  What else can you do today if you are Job hunting?  Here are some ideas:

1. Get that Profile Done! Work on your profile…do you have a photo, do you list your previous employment history, do you have a summary that sells you, do you have at least ten recommendations, have you entered key words?  See my profile.
2. Build your connections…find relevant connections, connect to others in your industry, connect to some LIONs (who will link to all comers).
3. Join relevant groups…when posting a job discussion use it creatively. Try “Anyone have any connections to (specific company) or (in industry)” – as opposed to “Gimme a job”.  In the top part of the discussion ask your question. In the details section explain why you’re asking. Direct people back to your newly updated profile for more information on you. Finally be careful how often you post to avoid an annoying/ spam type appearance.
4. Ask questions to help research companies or industries, find and solve industry problems by showcasng your expertise. 5. Search the Jobs section and see how you are connected into opportunities.  Ask connections about a position and whether it is part of a corporate growth iniative – maybe other positions to discover.
6. Download the LinkedIn jobs toolbar…search for jobs at these sites as well: Monster, CareerBuilder, HotJobs, Craigslist, SimplyHired, Dice, or Vault

7. Contact with Job Posters – you may be able to provide helpful info to a job poster that will come back later.  This can work with lower level jobs e.g. Controller – help the HR person with key factors, regulatory knowledge, interview Questions to ask, salary indicators, even suggest candidates etc.

7. Use the “What are you doing now” feature to let your network know that you are job searching. Update this every Tuesday and Friday.

Lots of ideas, but you do need to work this actively. 
Groups
 
Groups are a comparatively little known way to dramatically enhance your networking.    
Within your personal network, making contact with 2nd and 3rd degree connections can be time-consuming and slow, unless you have a paying account and have access to InMail.  With groups, the barriers to communicating with anyone are removed.

For example, I have about 261 direct connections and over 5 million people in my complete network.  So, when I update my profile the 261 direct connections are notified of my action, but that’s it.  In contrast, with my groups, when I participate in a discussion question or post a news article I can potentially reach many hundreds or thousands of people.  I have seen Blog articles go from 100s of views to 1000s of views overnight using this approach.

 I can easily market to a specific target audience: VCs, Start Ups, International Entrepreneurs or others.  You can even create your own group to develop a captive target group.   
You can be a member of up to 50 groups and you should focus on finding groups that are filled with your target contacts, employers and job referral partners. Here’s some features of groups you should know about:

 
   1. Find groups using relevant search terms e.g. Atlanta and Insurance should get me some local industry related contacts.

   2. Find groups via interesting people e.g. if Joe Smith is a key contact, I can look at his groups and then consider joining them.  I have discovered lots of new Groups this way.  Tall CFOs Group..anyone?

   3. Research your Group and invite interesting contacts to Link because you have the group in common.  This has a high percentage of success, since you have a bond already.

   4. Post Updates, News, or other messages and all Group members will be notified.  Great way to passively inform people in your desired network.  But…don’t spam or blow your credibility with a naked spam – “Give me a JOB, please!”

 
Finding Contacts through Search

 There are various ways of searching and new features continue to be added.  You can search by company, by person, for jobs and by answers.   Searching by company is an interesting way to find out new people you don’t yet know.
 
Searching by company allows you to use search terms to focus on an industry.  Once there, you can limit the search with size terms.  So you could search for all law firms in Atlanta with more than 20 partners.  Once you have this list, you can drill down to individuals and start to cross-reference with your existing contacts.
 
Another interesting concept is to look at “Viewers of this Profile also Viewed…” – found on the right hand bar lower down.  This is a list of contacts that may be similar to the contact you have targeted, or may have similar connections.  Either way it is like taking advantage of ripples in the networking vortex to discover other valuable contacts.

 I like to find people on web sites e.g. attendees at conferences, speakers at seminars and then find ways to connect with them.  Unfortunately, Barack Obama is not taking my calls.
  Use your imagination to find ways to uncover hidden gems…

 But remember, if you don’t make the next step and meet in real life then you will have little impact on your ultimate goals…either finding a job or building a business.

 

The Science of LinkedIn Domination

 You now have enough information to use LinkedIn effectively.  In the last few posts we have discussed Profiles, Building a Reputation, using LinkedIn for Job Hunting, Using Groups and Conductiong Better Searches.  Going forward there a number of ways you can continue to push the boundaries:

  •         Take a Webinar – find a webinar online, read a book, keep developing your knowledge of LinkedIn.  One of my best sources for ideas and material is www.Linkedintuition.com, which is a blog on LinkedIn.  It’s full of new advice and continuously updated.

 •         Work on your Profile: continue to refine, add keywords, post articles, white papers, Powerpoints on your site.

 •         Find contacts in The FENG and invite them offline and online to connect.

•         Send periodic emails to contacts: stay in touch, have coffee or lunch – keep the contact alive.

•         Help others connect: Introduce people to each other, pay it forward, create your reputation as a LinkedIn hub, someone who knows people.

•         Hold events for people with common interests: Create a group, go offline and host a meeting, give a seminar and publicize it through your groups.

•         Form a group: Post articles, news, discussions

•         Share your knowledge: Write a blog, post it through LinkedIn, post articles, answer questions, forward interesting articles to contacts.

•         LinkedIn Events – check regularly to find networking events in your area.

•         Explain value of LinkedIn: knowledge is power, become an expert and help others understand LinkedIn while building your network.

 
B2B CFO®, is a national CFO Services firm focused on emerging and mid market companies, that has grown from a handful of partners in 2004, to nearly 120 partners today.  During that time the partners have built their individual client bases, and today we have total client revenue of over $3 billion.  We have done all his through effective networking – and that is how you will land your next position.  Good Luck..

 
David Kirkup is a Partner with B2B CFO®, and an active networker on LinkedIn.  He writes a weekly Blog on financial issues with a British humor slant.  He has been a member of The FENG since 1998.

 

More from David Kirkup…

About the Author

David has over two and a half decades of business experience and is a proven financial management expert. Working in Europe and the USA, David has served as Divisional CFO at a number of Fortune 500 corporations: including Reuters, Marsh & McClennan, Zurich Insurance and ADP as well as numerous small and mid size companies. As part owner of a small software company, he was heavily involved in the marketing efforts and ultimate sale of the company. As CFO with a national PEO firm he dealt with the credit and financial issues facing hundreds of small business clients. David also spent 5 years in Bermuda managing captive insurance companies.

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