Maximize Your Job Search with LinkedIn Groups

networking groups LinkedIn Groups is one of this social network’s best features and one that many job seekers and career changes under-utilize. That’s a shame because making full use of this feature can dramatically expand the reach of your network and boost the attention your candidacy gets from recruiters and hiring executives.

Start by joining enough LinkedIn groups of the right kinds. LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 and I suggest joining 30 at a minimum with a goal to push your memberships to 50 within a few months. Which types of groups should you join? Here is the formula I recommend:

  • Groups Based on Your Geographic Targets: Identify your geographic targets and join up to 5 LinkedIn groups that serve those areas. These can be groups based on cities or metro areas, regions, states, or countries. Choose the 5 groups that give you the widest coverage geographically of your target areas.
  • Groups Based on Your Academic & Work History: Search for alumni groups for all of your degrees, certifications, and professional development coursework to date. The vast majority of these organizations will have an alumni group that you will probably be eligible to join, even if you took classes at an institution but didn’t complete a degree. In addition, also look for alumni LinkedIn groups related to your tenure with large employers. You will find many alumni groups on LinkedIn for folks who previously worked at many medium to large employers and these are great networking groups to add to your list. By combining these 2 types of alumni groups, you should be able to add up to 5 memberships to your total.
  • Groups Based on Your Industry Targets: The remaining 20 or so LinkedIn group memberships should relate to your targeted industries. For each industry you are pursuing, research key industry groups by conducting a series of searches on LinkedIn using the group search function. If you’re targeting the biotech sector, for example, try looking for “biotech industry groups” or “biotech groups,” then repeat this search for each of your targeted sectors. Your goal is to source about 10 industry groups on LinkedIn.
  • Groups Based on Your Targeted Key Words: Assuming you already have a list of 8 to 10 key words you’re targeting in your LinkedIn profile (a must-have), try searching for groups related to each key word or phrase. These groups will probably focus on some combination of trends or best practices related to your key word and/or will serve professionals who work in related sectors. For example, if you’re targeting the key word “strategic planning” you may find groups that focus on strategic planning trends, practices, and emerging developments; you may also find groups that focus on strategic planning professionals. Your goal is to join approximately 10 key word-related groups on LinkedIn.
  • Groups Specializing in Serving Job Seekers: While joining a few of these kinds of groups is fine, I wouldn’t recommend joining more than a couple. Your goal in your search is to stand out from other candidates; hanging out in cyberspace with your competitors can be counterproductive. There are some advantages to these groups, but you can leverage those advantages by joining 3-5 job search-related LinkedIn groups.

By breaking your search for LinkedIn groups into these categories, you’ll not only find groups faster, you will also cast your networking efforts across a larger slice of the overall LinkedIn membership. In short, your candidacy will be seen by more people.

As you search for relevant LinkedIn groups to join, look for groups that:

  • Are sizable or small. Sizable groups offer the advantage of many members which expands the reach of your network, but small groups offer more intimate and potentially helpful networking. Join both.
  • Are true networking groups. Some groups on LinkedIn are really just marketing tools for companies – avoid these. Instead, watch for groups whose policies and practices reveal them to actively support networking among members.
  • Are active. You need groups that consist of active members so there will be a steady stream of discussions and posts. Watch for groups whose members contribute regularly.
  • Will enable you to share your expertise and insight. Your ultimate goal in joining 30 LinkedIn groups is to find opportunities to share your expertise in relevant posts and discussions – this invites discovery by and attracts attention from recruiters and hiring executives. As you’re searching for groups, choose the ones with discussions most relevant to your key word targets and level of expertise. If you’re an executive with more than 20 years of experience, for example, it’s not in your best interest to join a group of industry newbies because the quality and level of discussion probably won’t enable you to put your expertise front and center.

Joining the right number and type of groups is the first step in leveraging this powerful LinkedIn feature – rebuild your group memberships to position your search to attract more career opportunities in 2014.