Jimmy has just created his first LinkedIn page. He has a professional profile picture, an attention grabbing headline, an in-depth and compelling summary and has filled out his relevant experience/ honors/ volunteer work, etc. Jimmy is now ready to reach out to potential employers. Jimmy begins to brainstorm about what networking strategy he should utilize when reaching out to individuals in the field he’s interested in. What are your recommendations?
Now that you have a stellar LinkedIn page, it’s time to use it to your advantage (If you haven’t read my previous article on building a stellar LinkedIn page here is the link http://thestrongprofessional.com/6-steps-to-designing-an-all-star-linkedin-profile/) . This is the part where we develop your “Networking Strategy”. What is a “Networking Strategy”? It is your plan of attack when networking on LinkedIn. Utilizing an effective strategy can be the difference between just having a pretty LinkedIn page and landing your dream job. Here is how to get started developing an effective networking strategy:
Sync social media accounts:
When first adding your LinkedIn page, LinkedIn will ask you if you would like to connect with your other social media accounts (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc). Although this may seem invasive to some of you, I highly recommend you do it. Have you ever heard about the concept of 6 degrees of separation? The term was introduced in 1929 by the Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy. In one of his short stories, one of the characters challenges the others to find another person on earth that he could not connect himself to in fewer than 5 intermediaries. This idea has become ever more relevant with the increased presence of social media in our daily lives. As a result, you may only be a connection or two away from landing your dream job.
Your second degree connections are where the gold is mined. Imagine you have 200 friends on LinkedIn and they in turn have 200 unique connections of their own. You would be connected to 40,000 by two degrees of separation or less. That’s bigger than most university campuses in the United States. Tapping into this vast network will help you maximize your networking success.
Join relevant groups on LinkedIn:
As part of your networking strategy, begin to join relevant groups on LinkedIn. These groups may include your University group, your University school group (ie. Business school, engineering school) and other professional or social organizations you may be a part of. For young professionals, you may consider joining industry and company groups. Joining these groups will give you access to all the professionals who are members. People are more likely to respond to a LinkedIn inquiry if there is some degree of commonality and a LinkedIn group is a great way of establishing it. Becoming active in a group by responding to posts and asking engaging questions is also a great way to establish rapport with group members.
Reaching out to industry professionals:
Once you have joined a LinkedIn group, it’s time to begin your search. Are you looking to secure a job with a particular company? Are you looking for a mentor? Once you identify what you are searching for, begin searching in your LinkedIn groups for professionals who meet your criteria. If you are looking for a new career opportunity, I recommend searching for someone in the position that you want to be in. Reaching out to the recruiters directly may seem like a good strategy but often times they ignore you. They receive many of these solicitations everyday so employing this strategy won’t be as fruitful.
People in the position that you want be in have quite a bit of knowledge of what the job entails and what it takes to succeed in that position. Also, establishing a relationship with them may lead to an employment opportunity down the line. HR departments periodically ask their employees if they have recommendations for potential candidates for positions they are trying to fill. The prevailing thought at most companies is that if an employee turns out to be good; their recommendations will lead the company to hiring more people just like them. I speak from personal experience when I say that I was able to secure 3 interviews with companies directly related to my conversations with professionals on LinkedIn. The way I went about it is very simple but the results are extremely powerful.
After you identify an individual you would like to connect to, send an invitation inviting them to connect. In the invitation you will write a short PERSONALIZED message asking them to speak with you about their experience. Below I have listed a sample message to get you started:
The introduction and where you found them:
The first sentence or so of your invitation should be your introduction. This is where you introduce yourself and tell them how you came across their profile. As I stated earlier in this article, mentioning where you came across their profile helps to establish rapport with the individual. To them you are not just some person who did a random search on LinkedIn to find people in a particular company. You share a common interest/organization with them and therefore they can relate to you.
ASK TO SPEAK WITH THEM:
This section is SOOOO important I had to write the title in all caps. Asking to speak with your invitee is crucial because it helps put a voice to your profile. When people only email back and forth, there is no real personal connection established. People are willing to stick up for someone they have a personal connection to. This will be helpful if and when this connection vouches for you when a recruiter asks for recommendations. Be sure to make your message short and sweet. You only have 300 characters to work with so use them wisely.
Preparing for your talk:
Once you have set up a time to speak to your new LinkedIn connection you need to begin doing some research about the company and his/her position. Similar to a job interview, your conversation will mainly consist of your connection talking about his/her experiences with the company in their role. Asking well thought out questions not only allows you to gather as much information as possible about your connection but it also helps build better rapport. People are generally excited about what they do so if you genuinely take an interest and ask great questions your connection will notice.
Be polite, be yourself and have fun. Networking is a journey after all and it should be enjoyed. Once the talk is over thank them for their time and ask them if you can reach out in the future with any questions you may have. Periodically send updates on your progress in your search and when you do accept a position with a company (even if it’s with their company) thank them for their insight and guidance. They will appreciate it.
Congratulations on making it through LinkedIn 101. Now that you have a superstar profile and a killer networking strategy, go out and show the world what you got. The future depends on what you do today so take the first step to your better future. I would love to hear your feedback about the LinkedIn page design and networking strategy articles. Please reach out and tell me about your experiences at Raphael.firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the best networking books you can read is Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. It is a comprehensive book on how to develop long lasting personal and business relationships with people from all walks of life. I have provided a link to the book below: