Networking on LinkedIn is more than just clicking “Connect” when you recognize a face, or allowing the system to scan your email contacts and calling it a day. While these are good first steps to getting your connection count up, you must branch out from this In order to create opportunities for yourself. Although this probably goes against everything your parents told you as a kid, you need to talk to strangers. Get used to reaching out to people you’ve never met before so that you can grow your network and open up doors for your future self.
Where to find potential connections
Like all social networks, LinkedIn suggests people for you to connect with. These suggestions most commonly are based on people you’ve already connected with, and the schools and employment experiences listed in your profile. The “people you may know” section is built from this algorithm, and can be leveraged effectively to grow your network with first and second degree connections (aka: friends of friends of friends).
Two lesser-used but still great places to find more target contacts are from groups and the alumni portal. The ‘groups’ part is pretty self-explanatory – you find a group based on a professional interest you have, join it, and connect with the members. LinkedIn suggests that you participate in the groups by joining discussions and posting relevant content, but you don’t have to unless you really want to put yourself out there. At this point in your career, it’s fine to be a spectator.
The alumni portal is one of the cooler things on LinkedIn, as it allows you to sort through the alums of any school you are connected to by filters like current location, industry, and company. This tool is especially useful if you are looking to do an informational interview with an alum who does a job that you think you want.
Customizing connection requests
Never send the default “I’d like to add you to my network” message to someone you don’t already know personally. Use the message to remind the person where you met this (if you’ve met them in person) and/or state why you would like to connect. Are you interested in the company that they work for? Do you want to know more about their career path? Be specific, and you are more likely to get a response.
When to reach out to someone via LinkedIn
I get a lot of questions about the timing of connecting, so I figured I put these quick tips in…
- If you come across someone you are genuinely interested in learning more about, send a request.
- If you are currently recruiting and have met the individual at a company networking event, email them first to see if they would be able to connect at the present time. Some companies have strict rules about interacting with applicants, so be mindful (and respectful) of those.
- If you have applied to a company and come across the profile of someone who works there, do not send a request. Wait until the recruiting process is over to establish the relationship. It looks a bit shady to try to network while your application is pending.
While LinkedIn sometimes gets a bad rap for being the ‘boring’ social network (I’ve even heard it be called the “unsocial” network), it is still important to have a presence on the site. Employers will look you up while reviewing your application, and a professional profile is much better for your personal brand (and chances of getting hired) than a picture of you doing a kegstand. Even if you’re beyond the college years, it’s better for a potential employer to find your LinkedIn than your Facebook, as the latter tends to have professionally content like religious and/or political views. Finally, even if you have no other social media presence, you should make a profile. Being without a digital footprint in 2015 is odd, and can be a red flag for some recruiters, especially in industries that expect employees to stay ahead of trends and information. I’m not saying that you have to be a LinkedIn power user (I think that designation is only for people in my industry!), but you should definitely have a presence.
How do you use LinkedIn in your career?