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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.
Use the “Open to Work” feature.
If appropriate, turn on the “Open to Work” feature (the green photo frame) on your profile to privately let recruiters know, or publicly let LinkedIn members know, that you want to be considered for new opportunities. But be careful with this.
Think about what job search social media expert Hannah Morgan said:
“DON’T display the green #OpenToWork frame on your profile if you’re searching undercover (for whatever reason). EVERYONE who lands on your profile, or sees your LinkedIn activity, will see it. If you’re employed, your employer could see it or be told by others that you’re looking.
Otherwise, if you’re unemployed and actively job-hunting, this feature has more pros than cons. It’s an easy, passive way to alert your network(s) of your status. People forget, or don’t understand, how important it is to let their network(s) know when they’re job-hunting, so that they can help with leads, advice and support.
Either way, it may not have much impact on recruiters because they’ll find you anyway, through their in depth people searches.”
Get in the Right Mindset To Power Network on LinkedIn
According to Kristi DePaul, founder and principal at Nuanced, here are five common mistakes you might be making:
You don’t know what you want:
Have you thought about why you’re reaching out to someone? Are you seeking more information about a role or company? A relationship that can grow? Or a lifeline to a potential future mentor or employer?
You’re putting your own needs first:
Don’t be self-serving. No one will respond to “It would be good to connect with you,” unless they know what’s in it for them.
Your messages are weak:
Being specific and sensitive is especially important. Generic, non-personalized messages have a low probability of success. As entrepreneur Larry Kim has said: “What are the 11 most boring words in the English language? “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”
You’re using an awkward tone:
Sometimes even the best messages will be met with silence or ghosting. Still, many continue to approach total strangers in ways they’d never dare in person.
You’re not being persuasive enough:
If you haven’t been able to convince the other person why you really want to connect with them, chances are they won’t respond.
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 of 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 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.
How To Ask New People for Help
Your initial message to people will vary depending on who you’re writing to and your reason(s) for writing, but here’s a rundown of what to include:
Start by telling them who you are and note any connection(s) between you two.
Unless you know the recipient very well, assume they won’t know you or may not remember you, if they have met you.
Don’t assume that people will automatically jump to your profile to find out about you. Make it easy for them to see why you’ve reached out to them. Include any names of mutual contact(s) or mutual LinkedIn Groups, tell them if you’ve worked for the same company, etc.
It may read something like:
“I’m a VP of Marketing at XYZ company in [location]. I learned a great deal from your recent article in [publication].”
Quickly get to why you’re writing.
Here’s an example:
“I’m reaching out to you for some expert advice. I’m beginning a job search in the XYZ sector, and feel my expertise will greatly benefit [their company]. I have a few quick questions regarding [advice you need].”
Wrap it up briefly.
Here’s an example:
“Would you have a few moments in the near future to [whatever your request is]? Thank you for your time.”
Your entire initial message shouldn’t be more than, say, 6-8 short sentences. Just get your point across briefly and sign off.
And it should go without saying that your message needs to be grammatically correct and error free. Proofread carefully before you send it. And don’t use texting shortcuts or other abbreviations.
More on How to Build Your Network on LinkedIn
How to Write a Dazzling LinkedIn About Section or Summary
How to Connect on LinkedIn with People You Don’t Know . . . and Get Action
15 Savvy Tips To Boost LinkedIn Profile Views
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