How to Brilliantly Use LinkedIn to Find Real Work

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You already know that in this town, it’s all about who you know. But if you’re like most of us, how long does it take to go through that list? What, like two minutes?

Then what are you supposed to do?

In talking to our Members, thousands of whom are independent, we’ve realized that most of you are likely missing out on LinkedIn, which is a massively effective tool to find work—whether you’re looking for a full-time job or short-term projects. The problem with LinkedIn—and this is why most people never think to use it to hunt for work—is because most of its powerful capabilities as a job-search tool are invisible to the casual user.

But not anymore, at least for you!

linkedin-logoLinkedIn is more than just a place to post your profile and résumé. With more than 300 million users and almost 7 million people joining a month, it’s actually a humongous database with millions of records and billions of facts you can use to your advantage.

Once upon a time, if you wanted to get into, say, a particular production company, you might call or write them, ask around to see who knows who there, or reach out to their HR person. Usually it meant spending a lot of fuel to get even the tiniest spark.

But with LinkedIn, the future is upon us. Now, you can fire up an espresso, grab your nearest device and actually make something happen.

First thing you want to do is conduct a search on LinkedIn to see who in your network is connected somehow to the company. Lo and behold, one of your pals did looping work for them, and another works for the company that reps them. Well there you are. You’re already ahead of the game.

Next thing you do is check out the profiles of the folks who run the production company. One of them went to the same college as you (that likely has an Alumni office who will make a gentle introduction for you). Another belongs to the same golf club as your father-in-law.

LinkedIn shows you the invisible connections we have to one another. It is there you can not only target jobs, but approach them without being immediately discounted as an also ran; instead, you’ll be armed with a wealth of sorta inside information. You can learn who knows who, who’s moved where, job trends, and a lot more.

Indeed, if you want to test the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon theory, this is the place to do it.

Start here.

It begins with a really strong headline for your profile.

This is the line of text just below your name. Remember; your name, headline and photo are the only thing a LinkedIn visitor sees in search results, so yeah, they’re really important. They’re your brand, the only data points a visitor can use to make the decision whether to click through to you or move on.

“Makeup artist looking for independent film” is meh. “Award-Winning Makeup Artist Looking to Make an Indy Look Amazing” tells everybody what you bring to the party.

If you’re looking for a job, say so. If not, at lease make sure your headline makes a promise.

“Smart, reliable assistant looking to make a CEO’s job easier and more sane” makes it possible for recruiters to find you, and find your promise compelling. If you’d rather hunt incognito, then don’t mention you’re looking but give your headline some punch, and be sure to make it clear what the benefit of hiring you is.

Follow the money.

You quite likely have a list of companies or folks you’d love to work for, and if you don’t, that’s one of the first things we recommend you put together. When you follow them on LinkedIn, it’s like having a news feed of their activities; new productions, projects in development, birthdays, staff changes, layoffs, you name it. These are all facts you can use to sniff out opportunities and give your outreach letter real punch. By using these factoids in your email, you’ll be speaking with the voice of an insider, an insider who truly cares about their company and already has a solid base of knowledge.

Expand your network.

You’ll be surprised how fast your network can grow once you put some energy into broadening it. Add one new first-degree contact with a hundred connections, and your other connections in all degrees can grow by tens of thousands of people. When you’re looking for a gig, you want as many people to learn about you as possible.

Maybe you’ve never bothered to build a network. Doesn’t matter. Just start. LinkedIn has lots of tools that make it easy to import your contacts, find their connections and invite them to join your circle of worshippers. There’s even a feature called “Colleagues” that allows you to reconnect with folks you’ve worked with in the past, even if you’re not sure how to reach them.

Don’t be afraid to ask.

When you find a first-degree connection who knows someone you’d like to meet, don’t be shy about asking for the introduction. People will respect your ambition and drive. LinkedIn’s messaging feature (it’s on every profile), makes the process super easy.

Find the human, not the portal.

Sending your letter and résumé cold to a general recruiting page is usually about as effective as talking to a potted plant. Except the plant is pretty and recruiting portals are like something out of Chekov. You need to find the person, by name, who handles hiring. Is it a producer? A project manager? LinkedIn makes it easy to discover. Start with the Advanced People Search, add the company name and the likely title of the person who’s hiring. Once you hit a jackpot, you’re ready to reach out. But first…

Know your audience.

Now that you have a name, you’re not going to send some lame, generic email or letter, are you? No. Because now you know what kind of problems this person is facing on the job. You know the things they care about, the people they know, the groups they belong to. Even whom they look up to—their influencers. And that is going to make your letter ripe with insight and detail. It’s the kind of homework very few people do, yet everyone appreciates.

Tap into the hive brain.

Go back to Advanced Search. This page is your new best friend, except without the obligation of ever having to buy it lunch. Anyway, do a search on your target company’s name and see who in your network is connected to them. Obviously, these people can make great introductions. But more than that, they can give you information: How’s the company to work for? How are they about money? Details that can help you decide whether your target will be a good fit for you or not.

Give your profile some of the old show biz punch.

Think of your profile as an advertisement for your brand. When you only list a bunch of jobs, you blend. You do not want to blend, and you do not want to bore. Post a video of yourself doing your job. Add photos of your work. Tell people what events you go to. Post updates to let people know what you’re working on. Keep it fresh. Show the world you’re popping. It’s like Facebook, but for people who can actually mean money for you.

Don’t get us wrong. You need not update LinkedIn as frequently as FB, but try to keep it current and feeling alive.

Here are a few of our hard-earned recommendations for making your profile special:

  • When you’re describing previous gigs, keep it short. Maybe 2-3 sentences. Take this advice.
  • Keep it conversational, but again, brief.
  • Add solid, reliable keywords. This is of major importance. Don’t get all creative about it. Choose terms that are common, like “Key Grip”, “Final Cut Pro Expert”, or “Gaffer”. Keep it simple. If you can, make them specialized. Add your keywords to your bio and listings such as your gigs and projects.
  • Don’t use cliché pablum words like “proven professional” or “effective”. Even “creative” is overused.
  • The results of your work should be the featured headliners of your show. Include photos, clips, powerpoint presentations, writing samples, whatever it takes. Show them the goods.
  • References and Recommendations. Pure gold. By the way, pay it back. Don’t forget that endorsing others is a fantastic way to remind them you exist, and as a sweet side benefit, your name appears in their inbox, giving you nice visibility.
  • Speaking of references, keep ‘em real. Don’t try to game the system by recommending people you barely know in the hope they return the favor.

Make those connections.

  • Ask your Facebook friends and other social followers to connect with you.
  • Use the “People you may know” tool, which allows you to connect without needing an introduction.
  • Use the “Add Connections” tool, which uses LinkedIn’s intelligence to look at your contacts and see who’s linked up to whom. You’ll likely be amazed at how many connections you can make overnight.
  • If you want to join a group, you might be discovered by someone who’s hiring. This one’s seems hit or miss, although some people swear by groups. Either way, what’s to lose?

Don’t rely solely on LinkedIn.

As ubiquitous and effective as LInkedIn is, it’s pretty passive. Great for getting repeat business, but you still need to get yourself out there to get new work. If you’re really serious, once your profile is ready for prime time, take advantage of Twitter. And Email marketing. And the many other channels out there that speak to your potential employers. And when you do, thanks to your newfound mastery of LinkedIn and all its glorious insider information, your emails, posts and messages will stand out, get attention, build confidence and wrap your name in a blanket of credibility.

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