I owe LinkedIn, the nerdy stepchild of social media sites, a huge debt of gratitude for the way my summer unraveled: a dream, paid internship at an amazing publishing house where I not only had legitimate responsibilities and projects of my own, but learned an incredible amount in ten weeks.
Finding an internship while studying abroad isn’t the easiest endeavor. It typically involves phone interviews at strange times. Mine were usually around 10 or 11 p.m. Whose brain is really that sharp after gorging themselves with pasta for dinner? And sometimes, there is the dreaded Skype interview, which presents a whole slew of problems. Where do I look? How much of my body should I get in the shot? What if my internet breaks up and my face freezes in some heinous contortion?
My bigger problem was what do I do when all I have to work with is an automated online application system? Such was the case with the publishing house, Hachette, which was my top choice for my summer internship. I went to my school’s alumni network on LinkedIn, and did some stalking. I did a search for people that worked at a few of my top-choice companies and, luckily for me, got several results.
I sent a message to a select few, one of whom is my current boss. She was quick to point out to me a couple important things about what I did. First of all, she appreciated the initiative it showed. I really did want to work at Hachette, and that much was obvious. Secondly, I didn’t ask for a job. When I reached out, the underlying point wasn’t “hire me,” but rather “Do you have any advice?” I wanted to know if she liked working at Hachette, and if she had any further advice about the application process or the industry in general. No one I reached out to was anything less than kind, some referred me to other people, one offered to pass along a recommendation to human resources, and one (after a few more messages back and forth), offered me an interview and eventually hired me.
Obviously, you’re not going to get anywhere by cold emailing people without the skills, education, and job requirements to back it up. You’re also not going to get anywhere without first doing your research, determining why you want to work at a particular place, and going through the traditional application process. But why let the application and cover letter you poured over for days float around in cyberspace when you could talk to someone who actually works at the company? Someone who, in all likelihood—especially if you have a shared alma mater and the resume to back you up—will be happy to try to help if they can.
You already know to keep your LinkedIn resume updated and send connections to people you meet through work. However, many people (including me, though I’m working on it) aren’t quite using it to its full potential. Get endorsements from people you’ve worked with, join groups that apply to you, ask former bosses for recommendations that feature one or two particular assets, and include specific examples of how you contributed in each of your positions. Absolutely put your stalking skills to good use in your network.
Whatever you do, don’t let LinkedIn simply remain an ever-present, always-mentioned, yet somehow still underutilized tool in the job searching process. Use it to its full potential!
Have you ever received a job offer as a result of a connection through LinkedIn? Share your story in the comments below!
Ask Levo Mentor Erica Dhawan for her thoughts on the best ways to use LinkedIn.