In February of this year, I posted an interview with attorney Jeena Belil about how she uses LinkedIn Groups to help develop her business. I recently spoke with another attorney, Jonathan, who has also achieved success using LinkedIn. In fact, his participation on LinkedIn, particularly with Groups, helped him to not only land his current job, but also to obtain clients and referrals.
The job search
One of the advantages of using LinkedIn Groups is the ability to send messages to other members of the Group, even if you’re not connected. Jonathan started using this feature and found it to be very helpful in his job search. He looked at the members of his Groups to see who was a recruiter or had hiring as part of their job title or job description. He contacted those people to let them know of his job search and, as a result, made many good connections.
Jonathan also joined a group comprised of alumni from his law school and then reached out to connect with those he wasn’t already connected to.
With an LLM in tax, Jonathan was interested in obtaining a position with a tax firm. He had some contacts at a major firm and sent a message to one of those contacts. She forwarded his information on to a colleague in one of the firm’s other offices where there was an open position and Jonathan got the job.
Jonathan says that initially, he was reluctant to attempt to directly connect on LinkedIn with people he didn’t know, but then he realized that people are using LinkedIn specifically for networking purposes; making contacts is the reason they’re on LinkedIn in the first place, so he decided to go for it. He found that most people were very receptive. In Jonathan’s experience, response rate was much higher using LinkedIn to reach out to others than cold-calling someone’s office or sending a random email.
If you’re looking for a job, there are even more reasons to be on LinkedIn, according to Jonathan:
- Employers are nervous about who they are hiring and how their new hire might reflect on their company; having a LinkedIn page makes you look like an adult - a professional.
- Don’t worry if none of your friends are using LinkedIn; if you’re the only one who is there, you’ll have an advantage over others.
- The more jobs that get filled through LinkedIn, the fewer will be in the newspapers or posted in other places. Those who are not on LinkedIn won’t even know that these opportunities exist. Jonathan knows this first-hand; he saw a posting for a job on LinkedIn and emailed a friend who was looking for work. His friend ultimately got the job, but if it weren’t for LinkedIn, he wouldn’t have even known the position was available.
But don’t take Jonathan’s word for it. Irene McConnell, founder of Arielle Careers, a personal branding agency, says, “In the next 5 years we'll see it completely upend up our flawed recruitment industry, presenting well-connected LinkedIn users with a flood of job opportunities.”
While LinkedIn may not replace the traditional resume in the legal field just yet, recruiters and head hunters are definitely using LinkedIn to vet candidates and build up an accurate picture of you. Recruiters use LinkedIn’s paid plans to get greater searches, but you won’t get found if your Profile doesn’t accurately reflect your skills, or if it doesn’t contain enough information to put you in the search results.
Building relationships and finding clients
Now that Jonathan has landed his job, he continues to stay active in LinkedIn Groups and to otherwise participate on LinkedIn. He reads news relevant to his area of practice and tries to re-post or share information that he thinks would be interesting to his connections in LinkedIn Group discussions. He has even been named a “top contributor” on one of the Groups he participates in. He believes his LinkedIn activity shows his value both to his current employer and potentially to a future employer, recruiter or head-hunter.
In addition, Jonathan says that since his area of practice can be complicated, it pays to demonstrate his knowledge. He says, “Once people view you as someone who knows what they’re talking about in a particular area, they’ll start seeing you as a ‘go to’ person and will come to you when they have questions.” He notes that the best way to get business in his area of practice is from other lawyers who don’t know the tax issues that might be involved in their client’s matter, or who need help to refer a client.
In addition to using Groups on LinkedIn, Jonathan recommends using a strategy to connect and build your network. Although you may ask your friends for referrals, they may not realize who they know who would be a good connection for you. But using LinkedIn, you can view their connections, see who your friend knows that you would like to know and ask for an introduction.
Jonathan believes that social media, and LinkedIn in particular, is a great way to develop business. He thinks, “if you’re not on LinkedIn, you’re crazy,” because "everyone in a service business (including lawyers) is always looking for clients, and being on LinkedIn and participating in Groups is free advertising. You often get instant feedback and you can see how many people are interacting with what you post."
In a recent article writen for law firm managers looking for jobs from which the Irene McConnell quote mentioned above was taken, McConnell suggests several steps to help you get results using LinkedIn for your job search. But the fact is that these steps don’t apply just to looking for a new job; they also apply to those looking to land new clients, especially institutional clients.
Here’s my take on some of her suggestions.
First, start with making a list of who you want to target on LinkedIn, whether that is potential employers, recruiters, potential clients or referral sources. Starting following them on LinkedIn and other social media.
By listening to what your target audience is saying on social media, you’ll learn about what is important to them, what challenges they’re facing and possibly even what some of their goals are. This information is invaluable for determining how to reach out to these people (whether directly or indirectly), ascertaining what kind of information you may be able to provide to them, and for developing your services in a way that meets their needs.
Another great advantage of LinkedIn is being able to see who works for what companies and in what capacities. Once you’ve identified your target audience of businesses, companies or employers, you can search their employee lists to identify decision-makers, in-house counsel, or people that hold specific positions within that company, just as Jonathan did when searching for those with positions related to hiring. Where appropriate, engage people in conversation and follow up with a personalized connection request.
Look for people within your target audience who blog or write articles online or for industry or trade publications. Comment on their posts and engage them in conversation. As the conversation continues, consider connecting with them directly.
Write articles or posts on your own LinkedIn profile that speak to the concerns, goals and challenges you’ve identified based on your target audience. Post them to LinkedIn Groups where appropriate, or start Group discussions on those topics and then direct those who comment on the discussion to your article.
Take online relationships offline – offer to meet for coffee or set up a telephone call.
How are you using LinkedIn, and has it been successful for you?