When you first get going on LinkedIn, joining groups is not very high on your list of things to do. Getting a complete resume on-line, posting a good photograph of your face, getting at least three recommendations and 50+ quality connections should be at the top of your list. Once you have achieved that, you should start looking into joining a few groups.
An easy place to start is your alumni groups. This would include colleges you attended as well as companies you have worked for. I belong to the University of Texas and University of North Texas alumni groups as well as Former Texas Instruments and Philips Employees groups.
The next logical place to go is groups having something to do with the field of work in which you are interested. “DFW IT Professionals” for example or “American Marketing Association”. Then look into groups which will educate you in areas you would like to pursue such as “Inbound Marketers” or “Social Media Club of Dallas.” You will get a fair number of updates from these groups on LinkedIn; some of them useful…and the rest you can ignore.
And finally, if you are looking for work, you should join groups specializing in helping you with your job hunt. “Crossroads Career Advice” or “The Job Hunter Group” are two examples.
In addition to getting some good information, there are other benefits to joining groups. They give you an opportunity to build your visibility. You can start discussions on topics you are expert on or leave comments. The dark side is, sometimes I see comments that look like the intent was only to show off. That is off-putting. However, I have discovered some really bright people from whom I can learn a lot. I’ve started following blogs and Twitter postings of people I have encountered through discussions on LinkedIn. I also add these super bright people to my LinkedIn Network. These are people I am going to want to stay in touch with for the rest of my career.
From time-to-time, I post useful information from this blog on group sites. I would be careful about this. If you have a few blogs you think are particularly useful, then you should post them in the appropriate places on group sites. You will occasionally step on someone’s toes and post something where you should not. Express your regret and don’t do it again. Not a big deal. The upside is, I get 10X the number of hits each time I post links to groups on LinkedIn.
There is the obvious benefit of building the image of yourself through the groups you join, however, there is something more. As you know, connecting to people outside your network can get tricky, requiring an introduction through a common person. If you belong to the same group as the person you want to connect to, you can simply indicate that you share a common group and LinkedIn will let you connect to them. For example, I know virtually no-one who works for Kimberly-Clark. Normally, LinkedIn would not let me connect to a complete stranger without a common connection between our two networks. However, there are several University of North Texas Alumni who work there. I can invite them to join my LinkedIn network by virtue of the fact that we both belong to the University of North Texas Alumni group.
As with most things, start out small by joining a few groups. It is simple to do and can greatly benefit your job search.