A few months ago, I was a market researcher in Boston at Procter & Gamble, one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies, and today, I’m a Research Consultant in San Francisco at LinkedIn, home of the world’s largest professional network and a company whose mission truly inspires me. I used LinkedIn to land my job here at LinkedIn, naturally, and in the process, underwent major life and career changes for the better.

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I uprooted my life in Boston where I grew up to move to San Francisco, a city that I’ve idealized for so long and started working in the ‘tech’ industry, where growth and change are necessary to survive. It all started with LinkedIn and I want to share the steps I took so others who are looking to make a big career move can benefit from what I learned.

Know your story and your values. It took months of introspection to figure out what I wanted. I had to understand what motivated me, what excited me (on a day-to-day basis) and what I was good at. I also thought about the company and mission I was working towards, and what values were important to me. There were also other difficult questions that I had to answer such as:

  • What do I want to do next?
  • Why do I want a different role?
  • How does a chemistry degree relate to the skills needed for what I want to do next?
  • How will I transition from working in a consumer goods company to a tech company?

I knew that I was easily enticed by other people’s roles, but it was easy to idealize other roles without understanding the day-to-day activities or skills needed for those roles. I talked with other mentors and trusted co-workers. One friend suggested that I research myself for an entire work week. Using a stack of sticky notes, I used one each time I felt inspired or uninspired by my work and wrote down what I was doing at that time. This exercise helped me piece together the type of work or things at work that energized me. Once I researched myself and answered the tough questions,  I was then able to craft my story. This story is my way of understanding myself and helping others understand who I am, and what value I can bring to an organization:

“The common theme in my background has always  been research. With a Bachelors degree in Chemistry from Cornell University, I started off running experiments with molecules and analyzing lots of data, but realized that I wasn’t seeing the impact of my work and I wasn’t interacting with people. When I joined P&G, I was given the opportunity to research people, their behavior and use this information to shape our business strategies, which excited me. It was here that I learned the value of relationships and leadership, which challenged me to grow as a person.  I spent almost four years here and was now looking to grow in ways that the company couldn’t help me do. I wanted to be part of an industry that was undergoing significant growth and in a place where I could stretch my technical skill set. Naturally, LinkedIn seems like the next best fit. “

Research the company before reaching out. I did my research on LinkedIn as a company before I applied or reached out to anyone at the company. To me, this came naturally as I genuinely love using LinkedIn and researching.

  • I researched the company page and watched their videos on cultural fit and transformation
  • I chose a job posting that I wanted to apply for.
  • I read their company blog.
  • I read a few articles by LinkedIn Influencers
  • For years, I was also an avid fan of Pulse, their mobile app that aggregates news from all over the web and had started using the LinkedIn platform to read status updates and articles.
  • For me, it was important that I believed in the culture, the product, the mission and culture of the company.

Proactively reach out to an employee at the company you’re interested in via LinkedIn before applying. While I was still working at Procter & Gamble (P&G) and after figuring out what I wanted,  I reached out via InMail to Sohan, a LinkedIn employee who was a second degree connection at the time. He had previously worked in a similar role as me at P&G. Although I didn’t know Sohan at the time, we had several mutual connections, so I sent him an InMail that was both personal and friendly. I inquired about his role, his work and his transition from a consumer goods to a tech company. Sohan also gave me insight into what LinkedIn was looking for in a candidate and the skills and traits needed to be successful in his role. Although I was unsure if I should reach out (would I be seen as annoying, desperate?), I decided that I had very little to lose. In my experience, people are usually more than eager to help you out if you are sincere.

Ask for an introduction. After Sohan’s detailed response, I was convinced that I wanted to do something similar. I asked him to introduce me to the hiring manager of a LinkedIn job posting that I had been considering. As luck would have it, he sat next to the hiring manager of the posting and Sohan eagerly introduced me to him.

Update your LinkedIn profile and make it easy to understand. For me especially, I knew that a jump from the consumer goods to the tech industry was unusual and would bring about many questions not just from interviewers but from friends as well. After some thought, I attempted to create a profile without corporate jargon and to explain my skills in a way that was easy to understand with the litmus test being my family, who still thought I ran chemistry experiments at a chemical company. My brother is a systems engineer, my mom is an real estate manager and my dad is a retired professor in computer engineering so the concept of marketing research was foreign. If my family could understand my experience, then most people would too.

Start with the end in mind. My research on the company and on myself prior to reaching out paid off when things started moving quickly and I was having multiple phone interviews. Balancing an actual job and interviewing, including flying out to San Francisco on a week’s notice, required careful planning and thought. I set aside time in my calendar, managed my work and blocked time off as vacation. Although I was surprised things moved quickly,  I was prepared.

My story is not unique…

I am not the only one who has a similar journey. Not surprisingly, I’m now part of the nearly 100% of new hires at LinkedIn that have been impacted by LinkedIn in the past six months, which means, people who are getting hired are leveraging relationships and doing their homework, too.

With an ever increasingly competitive job market and widening skills gap, knowing the right people and doing your research becomes critical to standing out. Sometimes it just takes a little motivation and courage to reach out to someone.