#TBT…Survival of the Fittest on LinkedIn

Kristy Amburgey, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical UniversityLinkedIn is a job seeker’s dream.  Even more so, LinkedIn is a career center’s dream: a free resource to encourage and show a job seeker how to network, identify leads, research and explore career options, search for employment and more.

In December 2008, the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Career Services Office took advantage of this dream resource and created a LinkedIn group.  Over time, we conducted assessments of the group and the activities to identify both the best and the more ineffective practices.  Essentially, certain practices were deemed fit and  survived our cuts while other policies were changed or removed to better benefit the group.  Below, you will find practices that evolved over the last several years, calling to mind our version of the survival of the fittest.

All Are Not So Welcome

When we originally created the group, we allowed anyone to join, and we did not feel the need to approve people as members of the group.  We wanted to see our membership grow, increase the diversity of the group, attract employers and prospective students and get our name out into the LinkedIn community.  We maintained this open concept until recently when we saw a continuing trend of issues with non-ERAU contributors.  We had several people with no affiliation to the university make negative comments, and we noticed that many of the people requesting help, via job and advice requests, were not Embry-Riddle students or alumni.  In addition, we could not fully advertise available positions found in our career management system or our Embry-Riddle events since we had group members who were not allowed to use our ERAU-specific resources.

Now, we only accept Embry-Riddle students, alumni, staff, faculty and administration into our group, and we do encourage and accept employers as members.  Although there are still non-ERAU people involved, we have ensured that this service is value-rich to the constituents we actually serve.

Peer-to-Peer Support

When the Embry-Riddle Career Services group was implemented, the staff members tried to respond to every question, inquiry and comment.  These actions were in addition to adding relevant content, sharing jobs and growing membership.  The time that was devoted to the management of the group was a rather large undertaking, especially as it was just one of our many systems.  About a year ago, we decided to take a less “answer immediately” approach and leave the responses to the fellow group members.  Even though we were wary of relinquishing control, our fears proved to be relatively unfounded.   We saw more people start to step up and provide advice and guidance.  And, yes, there were things posted with which we did not necessarily agree, but we also found that advice was flowing from multiple sources and showing many opinions, which reflected the reality of a typical job search.

Even though we heavily monitor our group activity, we do allow people to express their opinions, concerns and advice freely.  We try not to interfere, unless we see erroneous or discriminatory information posted, and interrupt the flow of peer-to-peer support.

One is Better than Two

In the beginning of our LinkedIn history, we had two separate LinkedIn groups based on our multi-campus structure.  After consideration and staffing changes, we merged the two groups into one and embraced our third campus’ students and alumni.  The Career Services Office was able to maintain a consistent message across multiple groups, and it prevented staff from having to post articles and jobs in multiple places.  For our purposes, the one Career Services group s a great advantage.  For example, it encouraged experienced alumni to interact in the same forum as first year students, and it allowed employers to see the range of students and alumni we had.

Feeding our Group

One of the practices that we implemented was the use of the newsfeed option.  This tool allowed us to ensure a consistent stream of career and industry-related articles.  At first, we selected many different resources to feed into our group; these feeds brought members job advice, aviation and aerospace stories and other related        content.  Through feedback, enhanced LinkedIn options and careful thought, we decided to narrow down the newsfeeds to include only career-related sites as most members found industry news through other groups to which they belonged.  By removing many of the extraneous sites, we were able to really feature valuable career content and group discussions.

Advertising Employment Opportunities

One of the great functions of LinkedIn groups was the ability to advertise and share available positions.  At first, we used the job posting function of the LinkedIn group in a rather narrow way.  We occasionally added job content or relied on employers to advertise open positions.  With increased functionality of our career management system and some brainstorming, we improved how we advertised positions via LinkedIn.

We utilize this feature when we are supporting a company with a hard to fill opportunity, a looming deadline or other challenge.  We also add jobs for our populations that don’t often have a multitude of choices. Another function is the ability to get third party recruiters involved with our office.  Without complete job information, we do not typically add third party recruiting jobs to our career management system, so we encourage the recruiters to join our LinkedIn group and then post positions; our staff often posts the positions in the jobs section of the group as well.  With this method, we have found that interested candidates can pose questions to the recruiter, and the recruiters can connect with candidates who seem to match their needs.

As with any new system, you must evaluate it with an open mind, finding what works, what does not work and what could be improved.  The evaluation process should be on-going.  We have often taken the approach of “let’s try it” especially in the early days of our usage.  But we are always willing to concede that an idea or approach was not so brilliant.  We have also found that LinkedIn compliments other systems, including our career management tool, EagleHire Network as powered by Experience.

The Embry-Riddle Career Services LinkedIn group has evolved and continues to evolve.  We have taken advantage of certain functions of the system, and we have minimized the use of some options as we evaluate the fit.  Our group has grown considerably, and it continues to evolve and adapt to our changing needs.

Useful Resources:

 

Connection, Spring 2012 Edition