Expanding Your "Who You Know"

You've probably heard that, when it comes to job searching, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." If you're in college or haven't been out that long, you might wonder how you're supposed to know the right people if they're not already in your network. One answer: Informational interviews.

Informational interviews are partly about gathering information, but they also play a vital role of helping you make local connections in your industry. This month we'll have a series on informational interviews: who to contact, how to set up an interview, and what to talk about.

The tool that I've found most useful, at least for job seekers in the US, is LinkedIn. This is the professional version of a social network, where you make a profile with similar information to a resume and then "connect" with people you know professionally. 

There's a multitude of ways LinkedIn can help you in your job search, including providing a place for a more complete version of your education, experience, and skills than you might want to put on a resume. But I never appreciated the value of LinkedIn until I started searching for local contacts to meet with when I moved to a new area.

Next week I'm going to give you some in-depth tips for finding people to contact for information interviews, but your assignment for this week is to flesh out your LinkedIn profile and network as much as possible. Create a profile if you don't have one; update your current profile if it's outdated; review what's on there in light of what you've learned about describing your education and experience.

Then start searching for people you can connect with not just friends and people you've worked with, but experienced professionals who might have a more extensive network, such as family friends and friends' parents. Even if none of these people have jobs you're interested in, they know people you don't know, and we'll talk about how to take advantage of that next week.