Although under-used by average LinkedIn members, LinkedIn Groups can be critical to a successful job search because they enable you to communicate directly with recruiters. And vice versa. You can leverage Groups for both visibility and credibility, demonstrating your knowledge and communications skills -- when you use Groups with care.
LinkedIn members can join up to fifty Groups, although LinkedIn members belong to an average of only seven. My strong recommendation is that anyone in a job search join all fifty, at least while in job search mode.
It is easy to join most LinkedIn Groups -- just click on the "Join" button. For some Groups, you may need to wait for approval (e.g. a Group for veterans will check to be sure you have military service in your Profile).
And, it's very easy to leave a Group that is not useful for you. When you belong to a Group, run your mouse over the "Member" button at the top of the Group pages, and it will change to "Leave." Click it, and you're out.
Engage Using LinkedIn Groups
Over 2,000,000 Groups exist for jobs and job search (like our own Job-Hunt Help Group, of course!), industries, professions, businesses and types of businesses, locations, employers (and employer alumni), technologies, hobbies, publications, and more. You won't have trouble finding fifty groups to join.
One of the major benefits of Group membership is the ability to communicate directly and privately with other Group members, regardless of your connection status, in addition to communicating publicly in the Discussions.
Group members (like recruiters!) can send "private messages" in Group Discussions and also messages via LinkedIn's InMail with the Group serving as the approved connection. So, you can contact recruiters -- and they can contact you -- because you belong to the same Group.
NOTE: Closing in on 2,000,000 members, the largest LinkedIn Group is for job search: Job Openings, Job Leads and Job Connections. Belonging to this Group will make you visible to thousands of recruiters, and it will also make them visible to you (using the Member search function, described next).
Groups are a great way to "meet" people virtually. Comment appropriately on other members' comments and discussions. Your Profile photo will make you recognizable, like a personal logo across all discussions (and social networks), and you will soon begin to look for the contributions of other LinkedIn "friends" by scanning for their Profile photos, too.
Use a Group's Members Search function (the "Members" tab at the top of each Group page) to find people to reach out to - like recruiters at your target employers, employees of your target employers, people with specific job titles, people in specific locations, etc. This search is very simple (currently), but it can be extremely useful.
Once you have identified someone, you can click on the "send message" link from the Group's members search results pages to contact them directly. You can also click on "Reply Privately" to contact someone from a discussion or comment they have posted in the Group.
Demonstrate what you know by sharing good information you have written or found online. Comment carefully, respectfully, and knowledgeably because what you share in a LinkedIn Group is a live demonstration of who you are, how (and how well) you communicate, and how you work with others.
You'll find amazing information available in LinkedIn Groups, from job postings to scientific discoveries and everything in between. In particular, LinkedIn Groups are excellent sources of information about many employers, directly from current and former employees.
Whatever your field, people are sharing the latest information about that field with other members of relevant Groups. Life-long learning is a fact of life (and career survival) for most of us, and Groups will help you stay up-to-date.
Beware the Hazards of LinkedIn Groups
Groups are excellent, but hazards do exist, and most of the hazards I've observed are self-inflicted wounds:
- Comments and posts you make in Groups are usually visible in your LinkedIn Update stream. So, a "private" announcement in a small LinkedIn Group can easily become visible to way too many people. You can manage this in the Group settings.
- I have seen several people act in Groups as though they were having a private conversation with someone they didn't like. Not smart (or professional or polite), and very unlikely to impress a potential employer or recruiter. Or anyone else...
- I have also seen people post comments full of misspellings and bad grammar. Since these postings are the only examples of your work that most LinkedIn members will see, better to take the time to carefully craft your contributions.
Linkedin allows you to manage the visibility of various Groups on your LinkedIn Profile through each Group's settings. A Group is visible when the Group's logo appears on your Profile.
You can also edit your Profile to select the Group logos to make them easily visible (or not) when someone -- like your boss or a recruiter -- is scanning your Profile.
If you are currently employed, don't make your membership in any Groups for job search visible on your Profile.
In addition, most LinkedIn Groups have rules about what behavior is acceptable within the Group and what behavior is not acceptable. You can do what you want, of course, but ignoring a Group's rules can seriously impact your visibility inside of LinkedIn.
A Group's owner or manager can block your posts to their Group if you ignore the Group's rules. The result can be putting you into "moderation" for all of your Groups. This is called "SWAM" (site-wide automated moderation), and it's best to avoid it when possible because it can limit your LinkedIn visibility for a while.
Each Group's rules are available by clicking on the "i" at the top of each Group page, and clicking on the "Rules" link, if one is there.
You know the basics, of course: your Profile must be 100 percent complete, including a nice head shot photo (just you -- no babies, pets, family, or friends). Groups will help you expand your LinkedIn Connections which is necessary for visibility inside LinkedIn. You will only be visible in the search results of people who are connected to you, so the more connections, the better.
More information about LinkedIn:
Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc. and the editor and chief technology writer for Job-Hunt.org and WorkCoachCafe.com. This article was first published on Job-Hunt.org.