How to Unleash the Power of LinkedIn to Get Your Dream Job, with Omar Garriott

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We hear about the importance of using LinkedIn as a networking tool and for finding a great job. But why is it so crucial, and how do you use it exactly? Find Your Dream Job guest Omar Garriott says you begin by making LinkedIn a daily habit. You can’t go there once a week only to see what new jobs are available. Omar also suggests building a proactive network on the platform and optimizing your profile for the job you want. The trick is to lean in, learn the platform, and take the reigns in your life and career. 

About Our Guest:

Omar Garriott is the global head of education for  Qualtrics and the co-author of the new book,  Linked: Conquer LinkedIn. Get Your Dream Job. Own Your Future. 

Resources in This Episode:


Find Your Dream Job, Episode 364:

How to Unleash the Power of LinkedIn to Get Your Dream Job, with Omar Garriott

Airdate: September 7, 2022

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. 

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

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Many professionals think of LinkedIn as a landing page for your resume. 

If this sounds like you, our guest today says that you are missing out on opportunities to make your job search easier and shorter.

Omar Garriott is here to talk about how to unleash the power of LinkedIn. 

He’s the global head of education for Qualtrics and the co-author of the new book, Linked: Conquer LinkedIn. Get Your Dream Job. Own Your Future. 

He joins us from Charlottesville, Virginia. 

Well, let’s jump right into it, Omar, with a pretty basic question. Why does your LinkedIn page matter so much when you do a job search? 

Omar Garriott:

Well, your LinkedIn presence, and this is not just your profile, it is your network, as well, on LinkedIn, disproportionately matters when it comes to not just the job search but being found for your dream job ultimately. And that is because it is synonymous with the job market. 

Nearly a billion professionals on LinkedIn, and more importantly, for the jobseeker’s purposes, every single recruiter, in every sector, in every corner of the world. Two-thirds of recruiters only use LinkedIn to find candidates, and ninety-seven percent of them use LinkedIn as part of how they source and vet candidates. So LinkedIn has really become not just the online resume but the online Rolodex, the default job board in the world, and then the place where recruiters look for and vet talent.

It’s kind of like that old bank robber, Willy Sutton, said when a reporter asked him, “Why do you rob banks?” And he said, “Cause that’s where the money is.” Right? And if you are in the job market, even passively, you’ve got to be where the recruiters are, and that place is LinkedIn.

Mac Prichard:

When you’re a job seeker, what are the most important job search features and services that you need to keep in mind on LinkedIn? 

Omar Garriott:

Yeah, so equally important is what I mentioned at the outside, which is, it’s not just about your LinkedIn profile, sort of that home page of yours on the internet. That thing you want to rise to the top in Google search results of your name. It is also your network that you’re building on LinkedIn, and in the book, we talk a lot about how to build a network that’s both broad and purposeful, and we can get into that some more today, Mac. 

But the most important sections of your profile, if we’re just sort of starting there, are your headline, which is that real estate right at the top underneath your name, where you can actually craft your own, you know, short narrative there, and not be wed to what LinkedIn wants you to do, which is list your most recent job title. This actually should be aspirational rather than merely reflective of what you’ve done. 

And then, your About or Professional Summary section that comes below that, and then third most important is your Experience. And we’ll talk much more about how to sort of optimize each of those sections. But those are for sure the places to start. 

Mac Prichard:

What’s the biggest misconception you see among job seekers, Omar, about LinkedIn? 

Omar Garriott:

Yeah, there, you know, there’s a lot of misconceptions. So, we haven’t talked about the fact that I, you know, helped start and lead the student and new grad team at LinkedIn several years ago. So my perspective, and what’s in the book, and some of the online trainings, and webinars we do with hundreds of colleges, is born of that perspective, of having been inside the belly of the beast. 

We used to do focus groups with job-seekers, especially earlier, you know, career starters, and they would say, yeah, I know LinkedIn. It’s like Facebook for old people. And now, maybe Facebook is Facebook for old people, but that perception still persists. Right? This was several years ago, but it still persists. 

Why do I need to have a presence here? How is it going to serve me? How is it different than other social media? And I would say it’s not so much social media. It’s actually a very useful professional network with a social layer on top. Right? But it is the place to find, get found for, and, you know, get considered for a great job. Not just a good job, but a great job. 

And now is the time to be out there looking for not just a good next job but a great job as we come out of the Great Resignation, which has also sort of evolved into the great regret. Right? Seventy-two percent of job seekers who have switched jobs during the pandemic have actually regretted that because they have found, well, hey, the grass is not always necessarily greener on the other side. 

So, LinkedIn is also going to be a very important tool for you to do your due diligence. Know what you’re getting into before you get into it. Because we can always find people to get that, you know, first-hand insight from, about what it’s like to work at a certain place, or on a specific team, or even for a specific manager. So LinkedIn is a really versatile Swiss army knife for career management that folks don’t really realize the immense power and potential of it. 

And also, the last thing I’ll say to that Mac is there are so many different things on LinkedIn. Right? Is it social media? Is it a professional blogging platform? Is it a place to upskill and learn? Is it a place for job searching and a job board? Is it a place for networking and your online resume? 

The answer is yes. It’s all of those things. But what I try to do in the book is really cut through the clutter of what really matters to the job seeker. And it is not all of those things that matter to the job seeker. 

Mac Prichard:

It can sound overwhelming, Omar; all those different opportunities and tools that LinkedIn offers, and we’re gonna talk about some specific steps you recommend to take advantage of those opportunities. But, in your experience, how much time and effort does it take to learn how to use LinkedIn effectively in a job search? 

Omar Garriott:

Well, I think the transition that people really need to make is going from seeing LinkedIn as a one-off thing when they are actively on the job market. Right? During that sort of intensive period, and really trying to make it more of a daily habit. Right? We will talk about how you can do some really vital “one fell swoop” type updates if you haven’t given your LinkedIn presence love in some time or you haven’t even established one yet. 

There’s a baseline level of things you need to do. But then sort of nurturing not just your profile, again, but your network. Making strategic touches. Making sure that you’re following companies you’re interested in. And a variety of things that will help you pass through the recruiter filters really requires you to have some kind of tending to that garden regularly. To make sure that when that perfect job for you comes up, not only can you jump on it, but you already have somebody on the inside who can refer you in.

And I just want to emphasize how important that referral is. You should never be applying to a job cold. Referrals make up only seven percent of applicants but forty percent of who actually gets hired. The biggest subgroup of who actually gets hired. Because companies know they perform the best, they stay the longest. And so, getting in as a referral makes you a very special class of candidate.

A big part of how you should be building your network strategically and proactively on LinkedIn, especially right now while the job market is still in the job seeker’s favor, is to make sure you position yourself to get that referral and get in the door, so you actually get your materials looked at and don’t just end up in that cold stack of resumes that’s never getting to a human being. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about how to unleash the power of LinkedIn during a job search. One of the first steps you recommend, I know, Omar, is to explore and dig in on LinkedIn. Tell us more about this. 

Omar Garriott:

Yeah, so many people want to jump straight into, sort of, what I would call optimizing their profile. Right? And the problem is, there is no such thing as a perfect LinkedIn profile. Despite LinkedIn’s efforts to gamify things and tell you, you have an all-star level profile and all that. That’s really just checking for thoroughness, completeness. 

Really what matters is not trying to have a completely perfect profile because there is no such thing. There’s no such thing as a perfect LinkedIn profile. There’s only a perfect profile for a specific job. 

So what job seekers need to do is back up a little bit. Start with, what am I trying to optimize for? (i.e., what is that ideal next job I would like to have?) Or maybe you’re thinking a couple of jobs down the road. But once you have done that thorough exploration, using LinkedIn as a tool to, you know, make connections with people who are actually in those jobs, you can then figure out, okay, here’s how I need to then go reflect certain things on my profile to get found, get considered, get hired for that job. 

So a big part of the very first step of exploration is about how do I want to focus not just my presence but even my search and the people with whom I can start to make connections. And my favorite tool for starting to do this, Mac, is something called the LinkedIn alumni tool. Which I helped work on when I worked at LinkedIn, and that’s available on LinkedIn to everybody. You do not need a premium account.

All you have to do is search for any school that you’ve been affiliated with, did any kind of program at, and when you click on their company page, their school page on LinkedIn, you’ll be able to see a little ribbon at the top that says, alumni. When you click alumni, it will actually sort the entire alumni base of that school with whom you have a shared affiliation. Right? This is basically your network. And allow you to see where they work, what they do, the function that they’re in, where they live, and a bunch more interesting information if you toggle over. 

Those rows that you see in the stack bar chart in the alumni tool are actually clickable. So you can easily start to narrow it down- a massive alumni base of maybe hundreds of thousands of people- to, for example, just the people working in finance in Portland and who work in business operations, for example. And you can do quick clicking like that and scroll down. The best part of the tool is that you can scroll down and actually see who those people are. 

So this is where your exploration needs to start. You do not need to blaze every trail yourself. Many, many people in your alumni network have already blazed those trails. So use that tool to get really quickly focused in on people who could help inform how you then want to optimize your profile. 

You are not touching your profile until you know what you want to be found and considered for next. And the best way to know that is to reach out to people who are in those jobs. And the best way to do that is to find alumni who are already in those jobs and who are more willing to talk to you and help you along your path than most folks that you might not have a connection with. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, that’s terrific, Omar. We’re gonna take a break. When we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with Omar Garriott about how to unleash the power of LinkedIn during a job search. Stay with us. 

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. 

I’m talking with Omar Garriott. He’s the global head of education for Qualtrics and the co-author of the new book, Linked: Conquer LinkedIn. Get Your Dream Job. Own Your Future. 

He joins us from Charlottesville, Virginia. 

Well, Omar, before the break, I loved the point you were making about the importance of referrals in a job search and the tools that LinkedIn offers, particularly for connecting people with your alumni network, and finding people who are doing the work you want or working at the company that interests you or perhaps is even your target employer. In your experience, do most people know about this tool and the value that it offers? 

Omar Garriott:

This alumni tool is my favorite hidden gem on LinkedIn. That’s why I wanted to mention it first. And the thing is, is that these people already have a shared affiliation with you. Right? That shared affiliation is so powerful if you know how to use it right. And here’s what I recommend when you reach out to people who are in that job you might want to have someday, or, by the way, could be that referral, maybe even that hiring manager. 

What you want to do is include three parts in your outreach. First thing, lead with that shared affiliation. Right? Go Tribe, go Huskies, whatever that affiliation is that you have. 

The second thing, flatter them, not yourself. You will have time to build a relationship and let them sort of get to know you, but right now, you want to say, your career path has been so amazing. I’d love to pick your brain. People love to be flattered. 

The third thing is a specific call to action. When you’re sending these messages on top of, say, a connection request, do not just leave it at a connection request. This is going to be a message that they get. Ask for fifteen or twenty minutes over Zoom or coffee next week. Next week is always better than this week. And if you do those three things, you’ve got about a two-thirds success rate of getting a reply. 

So you’re using this tool to both inform how you want to focus next, review the career paths of people who you might want to emulate, but also to get straight to them to not only find out what it’s like to be in those jobs, but also to ultimately be that referral when that perfect dream job comes up. 

And one last thing I’ll say about referrals, Mac; many people are hesitant to ask for that. I want you to flip that on its head because you are actually doing them a favor when you ask for a referral. 

I have referred people who I’ve barely known. I’ve merely had a quick conversation or maybe even just checked out their LinkedIn profile. Why? Because it’s to my benefit. Every company and many nonprofit and public sector agencies pay handsome referral bonuses when those referrals get hired. So many, many people- internal employees- play a volume game and want to just submit referrals left and right. 

You are actually giving them the opportunity to do that. You are giving them the opportunity to make a few thousand extra bucks. Do not be shy about building relationships that could lead to a referral.

Mac Prichard:

I’m glad you brought up the reason why people will say yes to these conversations and the difference perhaps a bonus for a referral can make. What are some of the other reasons why people will say yes to a request for an informational interview? Because often, I’m sure you’ve heard this too, Omar, job seekers will say, well, why would so and so talk to me? Or I tried that, and I never heard back. What’s your response to those two objections? 

Omar Garriott:

Well, what’s in it for them, for many people, first of all, is just this feeling that they want to help. Right? So in your outreach, if you can sort of set up that need for, sort of, career mentorship, oftentimes that will generate a good response. 

But also, the power of reciprocity is really strong. This has actually been tested in primates, and they sort of have this overriding sense, as we do, of reciprocity. So people, unfortunately, many people approach networking as a transaction.

My suggestion is to not make it transactional, but rather relationship-building over time, and the people who really understand that, and those who would be most likely to help you, are those who understand that, hey, someday this person might be able to help me. Right? It’s impossible and unknowable all the ways in which that could be true. 

But people who really get the concept of networking are both engaging in that they’re making the relationship the currency and not necessarily the referral, or the transaction, or hey, I saw this job that you have open. And I think people respond more favorably to that. 

As far as, you know, sort of, increasing your chances to get that referral and continuing to knock on that door if they say no or you don’t get a response. First, when it comes to LinkedIn, we do know that most people are most active on LinkedIn when they are looking for a job or looking to fill a job. So that is just a reality. There are many LinkedIn messages, personalized connection requests, etc., that won’t get responded to. That’s just true. 

But continue to beat the drum, beat the door, and a couple of strategies you can use if you’re still not getting that response, based on the three-part outreach that I mentioned earlier, is expanding your first-degree connections. Right? Because that will give you many more opportunities to be one fewer degree connected to that person you’re trying to reach. So you can ask for an introduction from a shared connection. And, by the way, when you’re asking for that, you are drafting the message. You are saying, not just can you introduce me to this person, but here’s the introduction I would like for you to send to your shared connection. 

The way you expand your network very quickly, broadly, is to use LinkedIn contact import tool. This is available if you click the my network icon at the very top and then connections on the left margin. On the right side, you’ll see a panel that says, add personal contacts. You can add in all the emails and phone books and things that you’ve ever had. LinkedIn will rapidly expand your connections by hundreds, if not thousands, of people that you already know. So you can start with those people as a shared connection into the person you’re trying to reach. 

And then another great strategy is to use a tool called which will give you the work email address of everyone. If they’re not responding to your LinkedIn messages or your shared connection messages, and you know they are the right person, you can actually go sort of scorched earth and reach out to them on the email address they are paid to check. And remember, you are giving them the opportunity to make a referral bonus. 

Mac Prichard:

In the first segment, Omar, you talked about the importance of making LinkedIn a habit, not just turning to it when you’re doing a job search. What kinds of activities have you found to be most effective on a regular basis, both to help you throughout your career, but again, also during a job search to use LinkedIn regularly? 

Omar Garriott:

Yeah, so the main thing to do is to start with that exploration and start making connections who can inform how you want to focus for the next thing. Right? That is a daily habit. That is browsing the career paths of people who are in the jobs you might want to have either next or someday. 

But when it comes to your profile, the most important thing is to even start from your resume. If your resume is the thing you put a lot of hours into, copy and paste that thing into LinkedIn as a place to just start. It’s totally fine to use bullets. You can be more exhaustive and comprehensive on LinkedIn than you would be in the resume because there’s collapsibility, it’s easy to scroll, etcetera. 

But really, the day-to-day activities are about making sure you’re staying in touch with, not just continuing to expand your network and browsing career paths, but the jobs that are becoming available. So if you click that jobs icon at the top, the little briefcase, it’s gonna take you to a place where you can search for jobs, start a search. Look for analyst jobs in Portland, Oregon. And from there, you can get all of those results. 

You can filter by past week because we know those are the jobs that are the most open, most actively interviewed for. You could do these job searches for specific companies. If you know, for example, you really want to work at Amazon, you might want to see every job becoming available at Amazon, or as a Product Marketer, etcetera. And then once you get those search results in that job search, there’s a little toggle in which you can toggle on that you would like to set up job alerts, and you can set up dozens of these. 

But you want these jobs pushed to you every morning in your inbox. Let LinkedIn do the hard work. By the way, connect up an email address that you actually check, because these kinds of job alerts, inbound messages from recruiters- that is not spam. That is stuff you want to get, and you can jump on an opportunity as soon as that right one opens up. 

And again, hopefully, you’ve built a connection at the company who can help you get in the door, be that referral. But if you haven’t, you’ve got five days to do it before those interviews really start in earnest, and/or you can always send in your stuff and then try to build a connection quickly on the heels as a fast follow, who will put you in as a sort of, you know, endorser candidacy on the backend there. So really staying in touch with the jobs that are becoming available is a key part of how you want to be making LinkedIn a daily habit. 

Mac Prichard:

One last question about contacts; you mentioned how LinkedIn can be a Rolodex or an online contact database for you. What approach do you recommend to doing that? Should you connect on LinkedIn with everyone that you meet, say in the course of your work day or even in your personal life? And how selective should you be? And when you do reach out to people, what’s the best way to do that? 

Omar Garriott:

Yeah, so this is another misconception about LinkedIn. Breadth is just as, if not more, important than depth. And depth is important too, by the way, and let me say a big note about that. The most important people to build proactive connections with are recruiters directly. You can a search an advance people search for people who have the title recruiter. You might add your school there to find people who are more inclined to connect with you. 

But recruiters are nodes in the network when you’re building a selective network, a purposeful network, in addition to those alumni we talked about earlier. Because they’re connected to lots of other recruiters, they’re connected to hiring managers because they hired them and recruited them. They’re connected to potential referrals, and it’s their job. Right? It’s their job to connect them with people and fill the top of their candidate funnel constantly. So that’s just one quick note about depth. In addition to alumni, who have blazed trails for you. Recruiters are great people to selectively connect with. 

With respects to your question about breadth. This is the misconception. Breadth is critical to building your network on LinkedIn. Think about the concept of network effect. Right? I can’t possibly know the five hundred plus connections that Mac Prichard has or the five hundred first he’s going to make tomorrow. Right? And so you can just envision the ripple effect. It’s the reason why on LinkedIn when you have over five hundred connections, it just says five hundred plus to the world. Right? That’s because LinkedIn’s smart data scientists have realized once you have over five hundred, you are actually just one degree removed from potentially millions of people.

And so, breadth also gets you that diversity in your network. Who knows what city you might want to live in someday, what industry or type of role you might want to be in, and you don’t want to have a highly clustered network that just consists of people who you worked with at one job one time in your life or one school you went to. You want to have as many possible people, and breadth gives you some of that built-in diversity. 

So, Mac, my threshold is simply, if I’m gonna connect with you on LinkedIn, is simply, do I know you in real life? Or is there any compelling reason for me to connect with you now or potentially in the future? So if your listeners reach out to me and say, “Hey, I heard your podcast. It wasn’t all that bad. On Find Your Dream Job,” then I will connect with you. Right? And I think actually if you lower that threshold for what it means to connect, you’re gonna get much better results on LinkedIn. 

And let’s be honest, jobs are found not by what we know but who we know. And it’s not really who we know directly. It’s who they know. That power of second and third-degree connections, the weak ties are where we get the volume to help us get in the door almost anywhere. 

So breadth is really, really important, and I know that some people have issues with that, but LinkedIn is not like other social media. It is public, well lit. People are who they say they are. If you start to get spammed or scammed, or sold something, or, worst yet, harassed, you can always block or report these people. And so, breadth is gonna serve you really well if you just approach networking that way. 

And in fact, there are people on LinkedIn called LinkedIn open networkers, LIONs who will connect with anybody. Now, that’s taking that to the extreme. But there is a lot of wisdom in their approach.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Omar. Now, tell us, what’s next for you? 

Omar Garriott:

You know, I’m really passionate about just getting this message out and helping more and more job seekers. I really think of LinkedIn as the great opportunity democratizer because anybody can get in the door in anywhere. Get found, get considered, get hired. So trying to get the word out about this, talking with you has been part of that, and also doing trainings, trying to get the book out there into the world. So that’s my mission is to spread the job search gospel. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, I know listeners can learn more about you, your book, and your training services by visiting your website, 

Now, Omar, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to unleash the power of LinkedIn?

Omar Garriott:

I think it’s that you need to take a proactive stance to this tool that is the default platform for job seekers, and it’s not just to get jobs pushed to you, respond to recruiter inbounds. It’s to actually shape your narrative on your profile, build a proactive network that’s there when you need it, and really take the reigns. Because as the great opportunity democratizer, LinkedIn is really what you make of it. It has so much power and potential to be valuable, but you’ve got to lean in and create your future. 

Mac Prichard:

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Again, that’s

Next week, our guest will be Marcett Banks.

She’s the human resource manager at Elephants Delicatessen. It’s Portland’s premier catering company and specialty foods retailer.

Marcett is an energetic HR leader who advocates for employees and business partners through inclusive practices and diversity initiatives. 

It can be challenging to balance your work and personal lives. 

But when you do it well, you reduce stress, improve your health, and enjoy a more satisfying life and career. 

Join us next Wednesday when Marcett Banks and I talk about how to find employers that offer good work-life balance.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List. 

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Matt Fiorillo.  Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.