Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lurk First (and Four More Tips To Get the Most out of LinkedIn Groups)

Lindsey Pollak,

Interested in finding a new job, switching careers, attracting more clients or building a stronger professional network? LinkedIn Groups is the place to be. Groups provides opportunities to meet and engage in discussions with members of your industry, your alumni community or other professional interest areas. Becoming active in LinkedIn Groups is like attending a professional conference every time you log on.

Here are five ways to get the most out of LinkedIn Groups.
1. Extend relationships with your in-person networks. The first groups to join are those you belong to offline. For instance, become a member of your university’s LinkedIn alumni group, any corporations where you’ve worked, any professional or trade associations you belong to and any non-profits where you volunteer.
Because you share a “real world” affinity with your fellow members, these are the environments where you’ll likely feel most comfortable seeking advice, connections or information. You might post a general career question, such as “Does anyone have advice on making the transition from consultant to full-time employee?” Or, you might search each group’s members for people in your desired industry to whom you can reach out and request an informational interview.
2. Be an industry insider. Next, join groups related to your industry (or the industry you want to join if you’re a recent grad or career changer). You’ll stay up to date on important industry issues, must-read articles and other hot topics.
To find the most valuable industry groups to join, be as specific as possible in your search criteria. For example, type in “social media marketing” rather than simply “marketing” if that’s your particular interest area. If your search comes back with lots of results, LinkedIn helps you filter by showing you which groups are “Very Active” (definitely where you want to be for the most potential opportunities) and which groups include members of your network (if people you admire belong to a particular group, that’s a great sign that you’ll find value there as well). Join as many industry groups as feel relevant to your interests — you can always drop out if the discussions aren’t valuable for you.
3. Lurk first. In any group, your best bet is to “lurk” first without commenting to get the lay of the land. Check out what topics receive the most comments. Look to the “Top Influencers This Week” area to see which members are driving conversation. Visit the “Manager’s Choice” discussions, where the group’s manager has elevated certain conversations that he or she feels are most important for members to view. You can also get a feel for the overall tone of each group’s discussions (Casual or buttoned-up? Highly technical? Globally or regionally focused?) before you contribute.

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