Using LinkedIn to Research: Who would have thought?
LinkedIn may be social media but it is also the largest career database in the world. (Profiles of people, their career paths, jobs, and companies). Too many people do not realize the value of using LinkedIn to research.
Yes, LinkedIn is:
- your professional online presence
- like your resume showing your experience and skills
- a place to find jobs
- a great networking platform
- an information-sharing platform
- also, a platform where you can do a ton of researching on companies and career pathways
Read this article or watch my screen capture to learn how you can:
- Discover a company mission, goals, and values
- Get a sense of the company culture
- Identify people who work there now or did in the past to learn from and network with
- See the career path of people who work (ed) there doing the type of job you want to do
- See which skills, credentials, and training people have that are doing the type of you you want to do
- And if you are lucky enough, to better prepare for an interview
After you have your LinkedIn profile to “All-Star” status (you don’t want people to see you are researching them or their company and have a profile that does not show your best)…
And, after you have refined your search and focused your career goals (even in broad terms, not necessarily narrowed down to 1 or 2 companies but at least you will want to be exploring some specific types of jobs)…
And, after you have done some research to identify your top 50 companies you are interested in learning more about… (Stuck in a Job Search? Find 50 Companies)
…then you are ready to use LinkedIn as one of your tools in your toolbox to discover mission, goals, values, culture, and much more.
Here are three areas in LinkedIn to research companies, career pathways, and people.
Watch this screen capture of how to research companies on LinkedIn
(You can follow along with the blog below)
For demonstration purposes, I went to the Best Places to Work in Maine website and found a company I did not know well, called NFI North, Inc which provides mental health services.
Step 1] Company Research – Learning about their culture and career pathways.
In the SEARCH bar, type in the company you are researching and make sure you click on the “Company” logo.
This brings you to the company’s LinkedIn page. If you are interested in this company, or when you are interested after your research, click on “+Follow” so that you will begin to receive posts, announcements, and jobs. Look on the left side of the screen for the below tabs.
HOME tab. Read what they have posted here to get a better understanding of the company culture.
- Are they active here?
- What are they posting?
- Helpful tips?
- Does this “feel” like a company you’d like to work for?
*Note: look to the right side of the screen and you’ll find “Similar pages”. This can be a very serendipitous way of discovering other similar companies
ABOUT tab. Typically gives you a nice overview of the company
JOBS tab. Yep…this is where you’ll find current job openings. Don’t worry if there are none posted or no jobs you’d like to do. Right now, research is what you want to do to find ways to network so you learn about jobs BEFORE they are posted.
PEOPLE tab. Here you will find six columns. You can only view two at a time and must navigate using the “Previous” or “Next” links to the right. (see image below).
This is where you can identify people who work there, where they live, what they do, where they studied, what their major was, skills they have identified as needed in their jobs, and how you are connected. This is a treasure trove of information!
I recommend starting with the 3rd panel over, “What they do”. Click on the “Next” link. Then, click on the “Show more” at the bottom.
Find an area you are most interested in and click on it. (see image below).
This will then show you the people who are doing that job function.
Pretty cool 🙂
I choose “Community and Social Services” and at NFI North, it brings up 54 employees.
You can then choose one of the six panels to narrow down your search even further as to Column 1 “Where they live”
Panel 2 “Where they studied”
Panel 4 “What they studied” You may want to find people who have a similar major
Panel 5 “What they are skilled at” This may help you determine skills you already have or skills you may want to develop
ACTION: this is where the “largest career database in the world” can help you look at career pathways to get to the job you want. Begin checking out some of the profiles of people and see how they got to their job. All the people who meet your criteria can be found below the chart. Pretty amazing isn’t it?
Step 2] Advanced Search – Identifying people who work there or worked there.
I like to start by going to the SEARCH bar in the upper left of LinkedIn, putting my cursor in the box, and press ENTER. (no need to type anything in this now – I’ll show you why)
I like to use the “All Filters” function which will allow us to find people who currently work at NFI North and who worked there in the past. Both can be very helpful in understanding company culture. Click on “All Filters” and you will see a number of options. Find “Current Companies” and type in the company you are researching. It should pull up their logo. Select it.
Then do the same for “Past Companies”.
APPLY – In my case, it shows 7 people who are connected to me. One of them is a 2nd level connection (Derik) and six are 3rd level connections.
*Note: My 2nd level person identifies which of my 1st connections are connected with Derik – If I want to connect with Derik, I could always reach out to these folks for introductions.
ACTION: At this time you could review these people’s profiles to see what they do there, but I want to continue the research.
*Note: Do NOT connect from this screen because it does not allow you to write a note. When connecting always go to the person’s profile, choose CONNECT, and add a note as to why you’d like to connect.
Let’s click on “ALL FILTERS” again in the upper right.
Many times I am looking for “warm connections”, so I want to see if anyone graduated from the same college as me. Scroll down and type in your college. I selected the University of Maine (even though I didn’t graduate from there, I’m pretty sure no one graduated from Oregon State University at NFI 🙂
In my example here of using LinkedIn to research, I have one possible “warm connection” who attended the University of Maine. If you do not know this person, I do not recommend connecting. You can always connect later if you do an informational interview or meet them somewhere. Right now, your focus is researching.
Now you know people who work there, people who worked there in the past, and how you can find alumni. A good start for your company research. Remember, LinkedIn is a tool to use. If you want to reach out to any of these people, find their contact information and ask for 10-15 minutes of their time…but this is another blog.
Step 3] Leaving LinkedIn to research on company websites & social media
Click on “Visit website” at the top and begin to explore the company’s website.
- Is their messaging consistent with what you’ve learned so far?
- Does their mission resonate with you?
Typically at the top or the bottom of the website, you will find their social media links. You’ve already done the LinkedIn research, now check out their “messaging” on Facebook, Twitter, and wherever else they are.
- Is their messaging consistent with what you’ve learned so far?
Use your analytical skills to determine content but also pay attention to your instincts and feelings. Not everything can be explained with data, and you want a company that “feels” right to you.
There are many other ways to use LinkedIn as a “tool in your toolbox” to learn about companies, develop your network, and identify possible careers. This is just one way that many of my clients will use LinkedIn as the largest career database in the world.
Jim Peacock is the Principal at Peak-Careers Consulting and writes a monthly newsletter for career practitioners. Peak-Careers offers discussion-based online seminars for career practitioners focused on meeting continuing education needs for CCSP, GCDF and BCC certified professionals as well as workshops for career practitioners and individual career coaching. He is the author of A Field Guide for Career Practitioners: Helping Your Clients Create Their Next Move
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