By Jill Pante
In my role as a higher education career services professional, I have had my fair share of students, alumni and professionals tell me how ineffective LinkedIn is as a networking tool. They will say things like:
• “I get spammed by bogus recruiters every day.”
• “I don’t get any response from recruiters or hiring managers.”
• “I don’t understand the purpose since I’m not looking for a job.”
• “It’s just another form of a high school popularity contest.”
I’ve heard it all, and after my last conversation with a LinkedIn naysayer, I decided to take matters into my own hands and perform an experiment to see if LinkedIn is really worth the time and effort.
So, over a four-week period, I incorporated two different strategies on LinkedIn. During the first two weeks, I didn’t do anything other than log in from time-to-time and look at my feed. During the second two weeks, I was active in groups, reached out to connections, posted and commented on articles and followed up with employers and job leads.
Before I tell you what happened, let me tell you about my profile so you have all the details: I have almost 3,200 connections, my profile is rated All Star – meaning it’s 100 percent complete, I’m following 23 influencers, companies, groups or schools, have two recommendations, 21 skills listed and have LinkedIn Premium. (However, I did not use LinkedIn Premium for this experiment.)
Now that you have a clear picture, let’s look at the results:
During those first two weeks, I logged into LinkedIn a total of five times, accepted 10 connection requests, and scrolled through my newsfeed but didn’t like or share anything. That was it.
What happened wasn’t shocking: nothing. No one offered me a job or promotion. I didn’t get any job or internship leads for the students and alumni I work with. No new employers asked to recruit at our school. I didn’t learn too much because I skimmed my newsfeed but didn’t actually read or engage in the conversation.
Overall, LinkedIn was useless to me. But seriously, what did I expect? I was an object at rest, so the fact that there was no movement in my professional life was not surprising.
When compared to the first two weeks of this experiment, the second two weeks were like night and day.
I started off by actively posting things that were important to me, including a food program for kids in need, a leadership program for women in business and professional branding tips. In those two weeks, my posts received between 600-1,500 views, an average of 15 likes and 2 shares. It was great to see my passions receive some interest, and to have conversations with others who share those passions.
Next, I moved onto connections. LinkedIn’s notifications feature will share anniversaries, changes in job titles and even birthdays of your connections. I used that information to congratulate and reconnect with 10 people. Four people responded and we were able to catch up, which felt great for all of us.
After that, I moved onto LinkedIn’s interests feature, which includes influencers, companies, groups and schools. In my role helping business students at the University of Delaware’s Lerner College of Business and Economics to find and be hired for great jobs,
I began posting in groups about our upcoming programs and hiring needs. It took me less then five minutes to post in seven groups, and I received four leads.
I also used LinkedIn’s schools feature to find alumni working in areas that are of interest to our students. I sent five connection requests and personalized the messages to explain why I wanted to connect. Four accepted my request within two days and the fifth accepted after 10 days.
Now that I was connected with five new people, I direct messaged them, and two responded that they wanted to get involved with ways to help our students.
Lastly, I explored the jobs section. While I didn’t apply for any jobs (I very much like where I am), I did find new leads through this section.
I also found it very useful to find how I’m connected with those industries that are hiring. If I ever want to move out of higher education and work in consulting, for example, I have more than 100 connections that I can reach out to for advice.
My final experimental findings were that being active and not a passive bystander in the LinkedIn world opened doors for me. Yes, LinkedIn is useless if you don’t use it. But let’s be real, that’s true for anything: You will get out of it what you put into it.
Jill Pante is director of the Lerner College Career Services Center at the University of Delaware.