If you’ve read anything about executive job search best practices, you know that networking is the best way to land a great-fit gig. You also know that includes building your LinkedIn network and staying active there.
What you may not know is how to actually do it:
- Who do you connect and communicate with?
- How do you find them on LinkedIn?
- How do you reach out to them?
- What LinkedIn networking activities work best?
You’ll find lots of tips and strategies below, but to really bring it all together, get my Essential LinkedIn Guide.
Build Out Your Profile: First Step to Set You Up to Network on LinkedIn
Before you do these things, there are a few things to put in place first:
Make sure you have a robust LinkedIn profile.
People will be more likely to connect and engage with you if they can see who you are from your profile. And a minimal, anemic profile reflects poorly on you and doesn’t help people see that you’re the kind of person they’ll want to network with, and potentially help you meet your career goals. Put in the time to fill out as many of the profile sections relevant to you that you can.
Be ever-mindful of keywords and SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
If you’ve done the initial job search research of the companies and jobs you will target, you have some of the relevant keywords that need to appear in your LinkedIn profile and other social networks. These keywords will help people find you on LinkedIn and build your network on LinkedIn.
Pay particular attention to the keywords in your profile headline. This is important real estate for SEO on your profile. And the headline is a quick snapshot of the value you offer.
Get some personality into your profile.
The content in your profile needs to balance all those great hard skills you possess with all your great character traits. Don’t be afraid to let people know what things about your work jazz you. Describe how you get things done, how you operate on the job. This is what personal branding is all about. A good way to bring your brand into the picture is through storytelling.
Add a photo or headshot to your profile.
Your profile needs to have a good headshot of you. That photo and your headline follow you everywhere on LinkedIn, in all the activities I’ve outlined below.
As I noted in my post Does My LinkedIn Profile Really Need a Photo?
“People connect easier and believe content more when it’s accompanied by the author’s photo. They’re more likely to reach out to someone when they can “see” the person. Your photo helps to personalize and humanize your brand-driven content.”
Add visuals (video, infographics, images, etc.) to your profile.
Show that you’re social media savvy and can keep pace with your younger colleagues at work, especially if you’re over 50.
Use the high-visibility Featured section of your profile to post various visuals (to capture attention), such as videos and images, along with documents and links.
In short, your profile needs to have plenty of content that represents you well, and positions you as a good-fit for the kinds of employers and jobs you want.
Who Should Be in My Network on LinkedIn?
You need to bring all kinds of people into your LinkedIn network . . . and proactively keep yourself and your personal brand top of mind with them. Here are some suggestions:
- Executive recruiters in your niche
- Hiring decision makers at your target companies
- Other employees at your target companies, at almost any professional level
- Influencers in your industry or niche
- Business associates and vendors you’ve worked with
- Current and past colleagues
- Colleagues involved in the same volunteering and community projects
- Friends and associates
Think of everyone you know. People in all walks of life can help you meet your career goals, but many of them may be strangers to you, or people you barely know.
How to find all these people.
LinkedIn offers several ways to find people to follow, connect with and network with, whether or not you have their name:
- Put their name into a LinkedIn search
- Look for people on your target companies’ LinkedIn (company) Pages
- Look at the profiles of employees of your target employers
- Search for alumni on your schools’ LinkedIn Pages
- Do an advanced LinkedIn search by name, location, industry, etc.
Push your Network on LinkedIn to at least 500 connections.
The more people you’re connected with, the wider you’ve cast your net for opportunities, the more people you’re staying top-of-mind with . . . thus the more likely more good-fit opportunities will come your way.
And, the more connections you have, the more people who are likely to share or like or comment on anything you publish on LinkedIn – updates, articles, comments, etc. – therefore spreading the word about your personal brand and unique value.
And, once you reach the 500+ connections mark, your profile ranks higher in search results, making you more visible and findable.
Customize Your Invitations to Connect
Don’t settle for the default message “I’d like to join your LinkedIn network”. Give people a reason to WANT to connect with you.
Write a brief message telling them why you want to connect. Don’t ask them for a favor or an introduction. Here’s one I received a while ago that’s just right:
“I am a loyal follower on yours and am very impressed with what you do in life. I was hoping we could connect so I can learn even more from you.”
How to Build the Best Network on LinkedIn
LinkedIn’s Director of Product, Liz Li, says:
“Our top recommendation is to connect with people you know and trust. If your network is filled with connections you know personally, it is real and usable, so that each and every connection has the potential to be helpful to your professional life, whether that’s a job recommendation, an introduction, or career advice.
The benefit of connecting with someone is that you can message them for free at any time, you have access to each other’s shared contact information, and those connections will show up in job postings as someone who could get you in the door with the hiring manager.”
If you don’t know someone personally, but want to keep up with what they’re doing and saying on LinkedIn, they recommend “following” them instead of connecting with them:
“This is perfect if you want to learn from established thought leaders in your industry or stay up-to-date on someone you admire. You’ll be able to engage directly with their content through reactions and commenting so you can start to build a professional relationship with them. And, engaging with their content in a thoughtful way can hopefully lead to a confirmed connection down the line.”
For others you don’t know but want to engage with, see if one of your connections knows them and can give you a “warm” introduction:
“We’ve made it even easier to send a message to multiple recipients – simply ask one of your connections to start a group message on LinkedIn to help make an introduction. And, if you’re already in a group conversation, members of that conversation can simply @ mention someone they’re connected to in a conversation to easily add them into that message thread.”
Should I Follow or Connect First with My Network on LinkedIn?
Career strategist Bob McIntosh confirms the above suggestions:
“You might want to start following people before connecting with them. You will still see their content in your feed, but you won’t be able to communicate with them directly unless you have a premium account and use Inmail to send them a message.
Another benefit of following someone is getting on their radar for potentially connecting with them in the future. Some of the best invites I receive are those that say a person has been following me and enjoys my content. Would I like to connect with them?
Note: If you see a Connect button on their profile, click on the More drop-down and choose Follow. In some cases, people will prefer that you follow them and won’t be notified that you’ve started following them.”
How to Network on LinkedIn Like a Pro
Don’t wait until you have lots of connections to start networking with them. Figure you’ll continue to build up connections while you engage with those you’re already connected with.
LinkedIn Places to Engage Your Network
- Your own and other people’s updates
- Your own and other people’s Pulse articles
- Your own and other people’s LinkedIn Group discussions
Here are some suggestions on what to post in your own LinkedIn updates from job search social media expert Hannah Morgan:
- Share an Interesting Article
- Share Tips
- Share Company News
- Share Industry News
- Invite People To An Event
- Share Your Reading List
- Share Tools or Resources
- Explain Something In A How-To Video
- Share Jobs
Strategies to Build Engagement
- Comment on, share and otherwise react to other people’s updates, Pulse articles and LinkedIn Group discussions
- Tag (or @mention) people in your own and other peoples’ updates, comments, shares, etc.
- Use hashtags in the above, too.