12/01/2014

Job Skills and LinkedIn: Where's the Connection?

By Mike Parchinski

Acquiring a new job generally requires previous work experience and specific skills needed to do the associated activities.  The experience might include internships and volunteer work as well as paid employment. This requirement can potentially be a hurdle for some recent college graduates actively looking for work.  School programs providing an internship course is a positive, well-thought out approach to overcome this hurdle (Cunningham, n.d.). The purpose is to prepare students to gain work experience directly related to their major prior to graduation and ultimately, lead to employment in a shorter time frame.

As college students prepare to graduate and enter the work force, it is suggested that they use readily available, free resources to identify the specific work skills in most demand for a certain job in one or more industries.  This information is essential to conducting a productive job search.  One popular resource is LinkedIn, a “business-focused” professional networking site that allows an individual to ask a question to many people simultaneously in order to get needed information (Mind Tools, n.d.). This article describes the author’s creative use of LinkedIn to identify work skills in demand for a specific career field in order to show how information directly and indirectly exchanged between two separate groups can be interpreted and applied to a job search.  


Creating a Discussion Question in Linkedin

One of the best ways to obtain accurate information regarding present trends in a career field is by talking directly to people currently working in the field, i.e., the “experts”.  For this article, the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) career field was researched using LinkedIn to provide an example of how online research can be conducted. The following diagram shows the type of information requested in a LinkedIn discussion of the “American Society of Safety Engineers” group which has many individuals doing activities related to EHS.  The question was, “What are the three most important skills needed for someone reentering the EHS field?”
The following is a sample of what such a question would look like on LinkedIn.


 Sample Linkedin Question


The purpose for creating this discussion question is to quickly find the most important work skills needed for the specific job being sought and will clarify the skills a job seeker already has and which skills need to be obtained.

This research activity is one of many steps that can be taken before conducting a successful job search, and serves as a critical step that career counselors can use with their clients (or be assigned as homework) during the exploration process.  The experts who respond can provide a more accurate picture of the job and industry the job seeker is exploring, and lead them to improved personal insight about how the job may or may not fit their skills and interests. Each expert’s LinkedIn profile can also be reviewed to see their job titles, names of companies where they are employed, specific geographic areas where they are located, and job activities they perform.

These individuals can also be contacted outside of the discussion in LinkedIn for feedback and to engage in a more meaningful conversation.  Just as a job seeker would do during an in-person informational interview, use LinkedIn to virtually ask the experts more about the required skills needed to be hired, how their existing skills could potentially be substituted or transferrable, and how best to obtain any needed skills. Additionally, companies where the experts work can be further researched and some possibly added to a list of “target companies” to contact.  An additional benefit in using this research technique is that an expert who posted a response and works at a target company might be willing to provide an introduction to someone within the company who has the authority to hire them, ultimately expanding the network in a powerful way.   

To effectively use this technique, it’s important that the posted question be very specific so that responses are directly associated with the discussion topic.  For example, EHS covers a broad range of subjects so the job activities of personal interest to the job seeker need to be clarified, such as, worker safety and government compliance.  This approach can keep the discussion on topic and not lead to multiple “conversations” on a wide variety of unrelated topics.  


Benefits of LinkedIn

College students who are about to graduate as well as recent graduates need to know the work skills directly associated with job openings for which they have a reasonable chance of being hired.  A college career center job search program that incorporates LinkedIn training could be extremely beneficial to the job search of their students and alumni.  A primary benefit of using LinkedIn is to quickly obtain specific information job seekers need by speaking directly to many individuals with expertise in their targeted career field.  This interaction allows job seekers to determine what steps must be done next in their job search in order to be more competitive.  The development of new professional relationships with other individuals is also possible, such as a person serving as a mentor to provide ongoing assistance and support during the job search as well as after it is completed.  While this strategy is particularly useful for college students and new professionals, job seekers of all types and at all levels can use LinkedIn to help find employment and explore other career options for continued career growth.  




References

Cunningham, J. (n.d.) “15 Best Practices for Internship Programs.” Retrieved from
http://www.naceweb.org/internships/15-best-practices.aspx

Mind Tools. (n.d.)  “Using LinkedIn Effectively. Growing Your Professional Network.” Retrieved from  http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/linkedin.htm


 


Mike Parchinski has a Master of Library Science degree from Southern Connecticut State University, a Master of Science degree in environmental science from Long Island University, and a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science from Alfred University.  He works in retail and has written an article on how to provide excellent customer service.  He can be reached at mparchin@gmail.com
 

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2 Comments

Dave DiBiase on Wednesday 12/03/2014 at 05:57AM wrote:

Nice job, Mike. I'm been verbalizing these strategies for LinkedIn with my students, so it's nice to see an article depicting this method.

Mike Parchinski on Thursday 12/04/2014 at 05:28PM wrote:

Dave, I am glad this LinkedIn example is useful in showing how to conduct specific techniques to gather good information.  A positive outcome is emphasized because doing a job search can be stressful at times. 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the opinions of this organization.