How to Network and Use LinkedIn to Find a Job 2021 (New Grad)

Part 3 of a New Graduate’s Guide to Becoming a Data/Business Analyst

Using LinkedIn — How to make your profile
Post on LinkedIn, a lot.
Use your alumni network
Informational interviews and how to do them effectively

This is Part 3 of a New Graduate’s Guide to Becoming a Business/Data Analyst.

Use LinkedIn

This is one of the pieces of advice that any half-decent article about finding a job includes, but I cannot emphasize it enough: Use LinkedIn.

Why?
1. Your LinkedIn page is almost always the first impression that a potential employer or networking contact gets of you.

  • I did not initially believe this, but seriously, look: if you do an internet search for ‘Eliana Grosof’, my LinkedIn page will be either the first or second result.
  • Even if your name is John Smith, the first thing an employer or networking contact will do upon receipt of your application or message is to search for you on LinkedIn. How do I know this? Most of the people I spoke with in my initial HR screenings casually brought up my LinkedIn profile.

2. It will connect you to people that can help you find a job.

If you’re a newbie like I was and only have a LinkedIn because some authority figure told you to make one once upon a time, it’s time to learn.

Basically, a LinkedIn is a virtual resume complete with an About section and fun tagline. Instead of being a single page, you can dump literally everything you’ve done on there.

How to make your LinkedIn page:

  1. If you already have a resume, just copy and paste everything into the appropriate sections.
  2. For the About section, come up with a couple of fun, short paragraphs describing who you are and what key skills and aspects of your personality you want to highlight to potential employers.
  3. For the tagline, just write something short and descriptive that mentions you’re looking for a job and roughly what kind of job. During my job search, it was: Computer Science New Graduate Seeking Data Science/Analyst Position in NYC or Remote
  4. Make sure to fill out your Skills and Projects section. The more complete your profile is, the more likely you’ll attract the attention of a recruiter.
    And… you’re done!

Keep in mind:

  • It’s okay to not do a very good job the first time. You can update it as much as you want. As you get a better idea of what you want in a job and what distinguishes you as a candidate, update your LinkedIn!
  • Update your LinkedIn with projects as you make them.

Now that you’ve got your shiny new LinkedIn page, you’re ready to use your network.

Start by connecting with everyone you know, even on an acquaintance level. If you have had even one conversation with the person and didn’t actively annoy them, they will probably accept your LinkedIn connection request. It’s even better if you went to the same high school or college as them.

Quick terminology:

  • A first degree connection is someone that you are directly connected to on LinkedIn.
  • A second degree connection is someone who is connected to someone connected to you.

The real strength of LinkedIn is using your first degree connections to connect to their first degree connections, i.e. your second degree connections.

Posting on LinkedIn

A great way to passively connect with second degree connections is to post frequently on LinkedIn.

The way LinkedIn works is that if a 1st degree connection reacts to one of your posts, all of their 1st degree connections (your 2nd degree connections) will see your post as well. Sometimes, those 2nd degree connections will look at your profile and reach out to you. Therefore, posting on LinkedIn frequently is a great way to connect with your 2nd degree connections.

You can post links to your projects and blogs. You can post links to articles that you liked. Keep it professional, but feel free to post. Most job seekers don’t post enough on LinkedIn, so you’ll stand out (mainly in a good way) if you do.

There are a few ways that you can use your first and second degree connections to find a job. I used them in two main ways:

When I found a job I was interested in applying for, the first thing I did was to search for the company on LinkedIn. I went to their People tab and looked for people who I had a first degree connection to.
If I found a first degree connection, bingo! I would reach out to them with a request for a chat with the hopes of getting a referral, or if I knew them pretty well, just a friendly note telling them that I was applying for a job at their company with a request for a referral.
If I found a second degree connection, I would apply for the job and then ask my first degree connection to connect me to them so I could set up an informational interview or simply reach out directly to them with a note saying why I was interested in connecting with them.

I’ll be frank — I never actually got an interview by getting in touch with a second degree connection this way, but it was a good way to meet people whose jobs were relevant to my future job. These connections gave me good advice and helped me expand my network. For example, I noticed that a family friend of mine was connected to someone who worked at a company that I was interested in. I got the family friend to introduce me to their connection, and ended up getting some really insightful advice from a very senior person in my industry.

I scheduled a bunch of informational interviews with data analysts and data scientists. But how did I find them? I searched for alumni with relevant job titles, like Data Analyst or Data Scientist, on a college alumni resource and then connected with them on LinkedIn.

To connect with alumni, just reach out with a short note introducing yourself, mentioning that you both went to the same college and that you’re interested in learning about their job. Then ask if you can schedule an informational interview in the near future.

You can also do this with anyone you find who you have something in common with, whether you saw a talk of theirs or even read a blog post of theirs that helped you out. You probably won’t get a “yes” every time, but many people are willing to chat.

Informational Interviews

So I’ve talked a lot about informational interviews, but what are they and why are they so important?

An informational interview is a relatively short conversation where you ask a professional about their job experiences. You ask the interviewee a bunch of questions, usually about their job experiences in additional general perspective on the field they work in. If they have other experiences you want to learn about, you should feel free to ask about those too.

In non-pandemic times, you’d offer to buy them coffee in exchange for 30 minutes to an hour of their time. However, while there’s still a deadly virus coursing through the streets, you’ll do them by phone or video chat. This is actually pretty great because it means that you can easily talk to anyone, anywhere and it’s not considered rude or out of the ordinary.

  • You gain a valuable connection, who may now or in the future help you get a job.
  • You learn something, hopefully new, about the field and/or kind of job that you are applying for.
  • You get real-life experience answering the ever-present interview question, “Tell me about yourself” in a low-pressure environment.

First of all, the person you’re interviewing, maybe an alum of your college who is currently a Data Scientist, feels flattered that you are seeking out their knowledge and advice.

Second, most people enjoy feeling that they’re helping someone. In this case, that person is you. Paradoxically, you are giving them a gift by having this interview. You come away with knowledge and a new connection, and they feel the warm glow of having helped a young professional. To help them feel appreciated, say things like “thank you, this is really helpful”, “that’s really good to know”, and “I feel like I know so much more about that now, thank you”.

In some cases, it will feel awkward and one-sided, and like you are truly interviewing them for a job. This is normal and okay. Just push forward, get what you can out of the interaction, and wrap it up when the time is up or it feels right.

Here are some good, basic questions you can ask of almost any of your connections:

What kind of data do you work with?
What do you like about your job?
What are some of the challenges you face in your job?
What’s involved in the day-to-day work of your job?

If you want to know how much of their time they spend writing SQL queries versus something else, feel ask them.

They also will know something about the interview process for their, so if you have questions about that, go ahead and ask.

But you should tailor your questions, to at least some extent, to the person in front of you.

How do I tailor my questions to the person in front of me?

Look over your connection’s LinkedIn page and carefully examine what exactly they do in their job. Come up with questions based on what you find.

Examples:

  • If they are a Data Analyst at Target, ask what kind of data they work with and what kinds of challenges they face specifically with clothing data.
  • If they have a Ph.D. and you’re considering graduate school in the near or distant future, ask them what it was like and how it impacts their work today.
  • If they live somewhere cool that you’d like to live in or travel to someday, feel free to ask them about it.

Also — don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions. If they said something that you want to know more about, ask about it! It’s a way of showing that you’re actively listening to them.

Actively listen and act genuinely interested in what they have to say. Enthusiasm from your end goes a very long way into making the informational interview a success. If your network connection can tell that you genuinely care about what they are saying, they will like you.

Ask for the minimum amount of time, generally 30 minutes, and keep track of time. If the interaction is going well, it might go longer than you intended. This is great! If you have more time to talk, just ask if the person would like to continue (assuming you want to). If not, politely end the conversation.

At the end of the interaction, ask if they know anyone else that might be useful or interesting for you to talk to. If they say no, thank them for their time. Also, if you want a referral for a job at their company, the end of the conversation is the correct time to ask for it.

— — — —

Part 1: How to Become a Business Analyst 2021
Part 2: Skills and Projects You Need to Get a Data/Business Analyst Position
Part 3: How to Network and Use LinkedIn to Find a Job
Part 4: How to Use Professional Groups to Find a Business Analyst Job 2021
Part 5: How to Keep Your Sanity During Your Job Search

I write about computers (shout out to my CS degree!) and also about having emotions as a twenty-something. Professional me: elianagrosof.com. DM @elianasquared.

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