Welcome.  After surveying 18,000 of my LinkedIn 1st connections, I learned that you wanted to understand how to leverage your LinkedIn 1st connections (“connections”) to access the hidden job market.

“Applying online is a waste of time” for reasons I discuss in my article “There must be a better way” that I published earlier in the year. How many of you caught that nice rhyme?

This article discusses:

  • Downloading your connections
  • Screening your connections
  • Contacting your connections
  • Following up with your connections

First, let’s take a step back…

Why can my connections help me access hidden jobs?

Great question you ask.  When I ask clients if they know where their connections work today, many say “sort of”.  Since my average client has over 500 connections, I see huge untapped value!

Since changing jobs happens with greater frequency, you want to know “who” is “where” since the “who” can help you land your next job.

If you have your target company list of 20-30 firms, you may be surprised to learn that some of your connections work there or at least know pros there.

You may even find trends in your connection’s employment that help you identify new positions, industries, etc. that you will enjoy and make more money!

  • If you were me and performed this exercise in 2011, you would have seen a new trend emerging amongst my peers; they were migrating to solar companies
  • Start asking why, and you would have discovered the exploding trend of finance professionals pivoting to residential and commercial solar companies to use innovative financing techniques

Figure out trends before they hit the press and more importantly before your competition gets wind (anyone catch that wind/solar connection?)

Downloading your 1st connections

Did you know downloading anything from your LinkedIn profile is almost impossible?  However, you can download your 1st connections.

Please follow these steps:

  • Go to your LinkedIn home page
  • Click on the small picture of yourself in the upper right-hand corner
  • Select “Settings and Privacy”
  • Click “Get a copy of your data”
  • The rest is self-explanatory

By accessing your connections via spreadsheet, you can now throw a filter on the various fields and start to see emerging trends. Who doesn’t love a good spreadsheet?

Simply looking at your connections online is valuable but will be more difficult to analyze.

Screening your connections

What is the greatest LinkedIn secret of all time?  Remember when you learned Boolean variables (and/or/not) in grammar school and thought to yourself “who cares?”

You do since you can use Boolean variables to perform additional search screens, after your original search, to pinpoint exactly who you want to find.

I used this method to find the clowns (real clowns) that graduated from my undergrad school. I found 2!

For example, after you perform your search, you will see the familiar “search bar” in the upper right-hand corner.

Now, type any text into the search bar to further filter your search results.  A secret filter!  Not just any secret filter but one that you can use with scary accuracy to find anyone you wish.

Let’s assume I want to find all my connections who work as portfolio managers for equity hedge funds.  I type “equity hedge fund” AND “portfolio manager” into the search bar.

Repeat for “OR” and “NOT” but always capitalize the Boolean variables.

Contacting your connections

After you get a great handle on who is where (yes that is a Doctor Seuss/Abbot and Costello reference) send them a message to get a call going.  Try this language:

“Hi, John.  Since we are 1st connections, I wanted to reach out to get some career advice.  Would you have 15 minutes for a conversation”.

Never use the word “job”.  You are reaching out to rekindle a relationship 1st, find a job 2nd.  Most job seekers reverse that order and end up with poor results.

Expect about 15-25% of the connections you message to say yes to a call.

How do you conduct the networking conversation to maximize your job search goal?  The anatomy of a great networking call is:

  • Let them know why you are calling; career advice to make a change (not to find a job despite your immediate intention)
  • Give an update of your career path to date
  • Ask them for the same
  • Talk about industry trends to warm up the conversation
  • Ask intelligent questions about your contact’s company
  • Punch line: “Do you think anyone in your company can use my skill set?”

Weird, awkward, and uncomfortable.  Yes.  However, almost all my clients tell me it gets easier after the 2nd call.  It also works if you follow up.

Following up

Most pros do not follow up.  However, as a job seeker, you need to follow up every single month.  But how do you do this without becoming a pain in the ass?

Simple.  Find an article that your contact would value from a personal or professional point of view.  In your message the following month, start with a reference to that article and provide a link.

Then remind them you are searching for your next opportunity and would appreciate any referrals.

You need to give before you get.  Life is a 2-way street.  Most of us forget that in our frantic job search, stuck in our own heads.

It’s about nurturing the relationship to keep top of mind to find a job to avoid applying online to make money to find a partner to buy a house to educate your kids to retire in Hawaii.

Bottom Line

Leverage your connections to get behind the scenes to access the hidden job market.

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