LinkedIn 101: Step 2–Build your Connections & Network!

Most professionals have a ‘LinkedIn profile’. But not everyone knows that LinkedIn is a place to find and engage a network of contacts during a job search.  In order to be a successful networker you have to have a profile that’s complete and promotes your personal brand.  Then you can proceed to broadcast your value proposition to others and draw valuable individuals into your circle. Most recruiters and HR departments are using LinkedIn to find candidates. You can actually be found via one of their searches, or you can actively network your way to opportunities within companies if you utilize LinkedIn’s great features.

Doing a few simple steps strategically in each of the categories below gets you noticed, creates the right circumstance to discuss your skills with employers, and even brings you job proposals.

Expand your Contacts:

Building your network on LinkedIn is an essential part of using the site.  You can get started by clicking on “add connections’’ under the ”contacts tab”.  Ask friends, co-workers, clients or anyone in your email directory you choose to join your network.  Always send a personal invitation with a good reason why the contact should join your LinkedIn network.  You can see your contacts and your outreach potential by looking on “Network Statistics”.  These stats are important for those in a job search, or for career counselors. You have the ability to email not just your immediate connections, but your extended network as well.

I have connections that are people I know personally, and have ongoing dealings with. But then I also have a few ”super conductors’’ in HR that expand my outreach power to the millions.  Our relationship though not personal, is mutually beneficial.  That is what LinkedIn connections are all about.  If a contact has over 500 relevant connections, adding them also adds all of their connections to your network.  Think of it as building a networking pyramid.  LinkedIn permits members to view profiles and email other members within three degrees of separation, or who simply share a common LinkedIn group.

Join Groups:

To increase your overall reach, increase your number of LinkedIn connections. To increase your reach to specific career relevant contacts, join LinkedIn groups. Groups normally allow you to contact and connect with its members directly.  You can start a discussion with top leaders in your field or key contacts for job leads, that you would not be able to reach otherwise.  When you find a prospect on LinkedIn you want to meet, just see what group they are a member of, and join one of those groups.  Get active in the discussions going on in that group to increase your visibility, and then invite that sought after contact into your network with a personal message. Never ask for a job right away, but build a relationship.  

One helpful comment or link can lead to a slew of new connections.  Simply go into the groups that you have joined and see who is talking. These are the most active people on LinkedIn because they take the time to join conversations and share personal knowledge with others.  Find professionals here that you would like to add to your connections list and send them an email.  If you add a few people a day, overtime you will have a network of connections that may be beneficial in the future.

Follow Companies:

Click on the ‘’Companies’’ link, then type in a company that interests you.  You can view job postings and even find out who works there that you can reach out to.  Click the “Follow Company” button to have update feeds sent to you directly. This helps you be among the first to learn about developments at companies like IBM or find job openings at PepsiCo. This LinkedIn feature lets you tap into over a million companies that have their profiles on LinkedIn. Within individual companies, click on the “Careers’’ tab to see what job postings were listed. Also in addition to researching companies directly before an interview, seek out LinkedIn to see what’s relevant in real time employer feeds.

Find Alumni:

Go to www.linkedin.com/alumni to see the list of the companies alumni work for and what they do. You can go into LinkedIn’s advanced search feature under the ”People” tab and find an exact match for what industry or company you are looking to find alumni connections. Those from your same alma mater are often more willing to answer your questions or offer advice. 

Have Answers, Ask Questions:

Under the ‘’More’’ tab, scroll down to “Answers’’.  In this feature you can post questions for surveys or just show show your expertise on a topic.  When someone answers your question, send a personal message and reach out to add them to your network.  Answer atleast a few questions a week.  In doing so, you can work your way up to becoming an expert by being ranked under ‘’top-rated answers’’.  Its a great way to professionally add to your brand and get noticed in your industry.

Check the Events Section:

Under the ‘’More’’ tab click on “Events”.  The events section is one of the most underutilized sections on LinkedIn.  You can search for programs on LinkedIn to see what is going on in your areas of interest. The attendee list that’s provided is a way of identifying potential networking contacts, and it lets you plan your conversations way ahead of the event. Events is one of the best places to find activities and network face-to-face. You can also post to your groups and on your profile that you are attending an event and ask if anyone would like feedback afterwards or even to join you.

Use Signal:

Under the “News” tab you can use “LinkedIn Today” to read articles related to your career and then share them on your profile, to groups, or contacts.  You can also click on “Signal” to see what’s going on with all your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree contacts or specific companies. After you discover a relevant piece of information, the key is to comment about it, share it or inquire directly with the individual that posted it. This applies to all of LinkedIn’s special features.

 You will find on weeks when you are more active on LinkedIn, those will be the weeks your profile will get more visitors.   Make a habit of sharing content in your ‘Updates’, check out the ‘Events Section’ to see what you can attend, engage with other users in ‘Groups’, share career related news links on ‘Signal’, and utilize the ”Companies’’ feature. Doing all of these steps daily is a valuable piece to your branding and job search success.

You can always look at the jobs section on LinkedIn to see what you can apply to directly, but the way LinkedIn works is by ‘’drawing people to you’’ and not  just applying for a job.  It’s important to create a daily awareness of your existence on LinkedIn if you are in a job search, and to stay visible to recruiters and those in your industry. 

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