When it comes to networking – either in person or via technology – what you get out of it is directly proportional to what you put into it.
In other words, there are no quick ways to make networking work.
There are no shortcuts to developing the right contacts or to achieving the job you want through your contacts and network.
No way around it – networking takes time, diligence, patience, and, above all, respect.
Since LinkedIn is a professional networking tool, then using LinkedIn effectively will also take time, diligence, and patience. There are no shortcuts. There are no easy wins. But if you put the work in, then LinkedIn could be your single most valuable tool for getting the job of your dreams.
Once you have perfected your LinkedIn Profile, the next step is to begin your research. Start with LinkedIn’s “people you may know” tool to find out who in your immediate network is on LinkedIn.
As you reach out to connect to people, LinkedIn will give you an option to send them either their pre-programmed message or to craft one of your own. Taking an extra two minutes to craft a message of your own is well worth the effort (especially when connecting with people you haven’t seen in awhile). Getting personal goes a long way so don’t skimp out on this step. Seriously. Don’t send that pre-programmed message as it could actually hurt you rather than help you.
While this is a step you’ll spend a good amount of time on at first, as your network grows, your “people you may know” options will grow with it. That means you should spend about 30-60 minutes per week looking for new potential connections. The more people you’re connected to, the more exposure and opportunities you can get. Just remember to keep all communication meaningful (such as sending personalized messages).
You may be wondering how to send a personalized message to a second-degree contact. After all, you don’t know them personally yet! In this case, it’s helpful to think about what you’d do in person. If you were meeting someone for the first time in person – and it were someone you knew through a friend or colleague – you’d likely start the conversation with that connection point. You’d talk about how you both know that person, your experience together, etc. From there, the conversation would take a natural flow from whatever else you have in common. You can do the same thing when reaching out on LinkedIn.
Just send them a message using the following template:
My name is __. I noticed that you’re connected with __, whom I know from __. I’d love to connect with you and learn a bit more about your experience and how you know each other.
This is a really basic message. If you have more connection points, include them. (For example, maybe this person is in a field you desire to be in or a company you’d like to join. Or they could just know a lot about something you’re interested in. Talk about that!) Add as much relevant information as you can to illustrate why you’re reaching out to them so it doesn’t feel like a random connection. You don’t want to seem like someone who’s growing their network just to see that connection number go up.
Besides building your network through people you know and people they could connect you with, then you’ll want to really start doing research. Look up companies you’re interested in and find people you’d like to connect to through that. Do the same with industries and interest areas you’d like to grow your network in.
Again, to avoid the awkwardness of reaching out to new people, follow an email template like this:
My name is __. I’m reaching out to you because we share an interest in __. I’d love to connect with you and chat about your experience! I’m interested in __ so any information on this would be greatly appreciated.
Some people might think it’s strange to make a request like this right away. But consider this: being transparent about what you want, while being respectful of someone’s time makes the whole thing easier for both parties. They won’t feel like you’re making a veiled attempt to get something and you won’t have to manipulate your way through the situation. Everyone appreciates openness and honesty – as long as it’s doled out with a large dose of respect for someone’s time and position.
Finally, you can build your network by searching for groups that have to do with your industry or area of interest. Join these LinkedIn Groups and become an active member that gives meaningful contributions to the group. If you can do that, you’ll have an opportunity to really get to know others in your industry or desired industry!
The Cherry on Top
Whether it’s in-person or online networking, there’s one key thing you can do to achieve an unfair advantage: pay attention.
Opportunities are everywhere, but it’s up to you to see them and take action. That means not taking anything for simple face value. When you’re networking, always look beyond what someone’s telling you and think about the implications thereof. When you do this, you can prove to be more valuable to your network and you can jump on opportunities first or create opportunities that didn’t exist before.
For example, let’s say you met someone who’s looking for a graphic designer, but you’re a writer. Since it’s not something you can do, you might just close the connection and move on. However, if you know a talented graphic designer, you could refer them and make the introduction. If the referral works out, you’ve just added value to two people’s lives – both of whom may do the same for you in the future.
The same goes for job opportunities. Let’s say you connect with someone on LinkedIn who works for your dream company, but they’re not hiring. If you build that connection and nurture it over time, you may find ways you can get your foot in the door as a consultant or even an intern. This could result in an opportunity you created for yourself or position you for the next opening. If you can’t contribute right now, in the meantime you can maintain a relationship with that person. Then you might just be on their mind the minute a new opportunity comes along.
In short, always pay attention. Consistently invest 15 minutes every week. Build and nurture connections. See opportunities where other people see closed doors or unsynchronized connections. If you do that in life and on LinkedIn, you can ensure that you’ll be ahead of the game.
Image Credit: Samuel Zeller