If you haven’t seen my previous article on how to create a LinkedIn account, you should definitely check that out here.
Having a LinkedIn account is nice, but it’s close to useless if you don’t know how to use it effectively. You need to start being proactive in your networking, but in order to do that you really need some advice. I have five tips to keep in mind.
The Magic Number of Connections is 500
Oftentimes, I’ve heard it said that “500 is the magic number” when it comes to LinkedIn. Why is this? Because LinkedIn does an excellent thing by connecting you to plenty of people you wouldn’t have . So if you have roughly 500 connections… that means the people you can connect to indirectly through those 500 main connections is likely over a million. Granted, 500 is an arbitrary benchmark, but just keep it in mind as a nice round number you should aspire to.
First, Some Context
As someone who is about to transition from college to graduate school, you are going to want to have a “deep bench” of friends, colleagues, mentors and other associates upon whom you can draw when you need help, support, a shoulder to cry on … and especially when you need a favor.
While other students are going “old school,” and building their network one person at a time, being the bright person you are, you are going to take full advantage of the social media tool before you.
And that tool is LinkedIn.
I know, I know. LinkedIn is only for (fill in your favorite disparagement here). The fact is that your future boss isn’t going to friend you on FaceBook, and isn’t going to follow your amazing tumblr page. People like your boss are on LinkedIn, and have been for a long time. (Longer than you, truth be told.) So you’re going to want to fix that. Think “Facebook for grown ups,” and let’s begin.
Tip #1: Have a Solid Networking Foundation
You need to start connecting with the people who know you well. This is how you’re going to get some early fast traction in your network — by leveraging the network of the people closest to you.This is the most basic step and should be as thorough as possible. The easiest part is, you don’t even need use that much effort! They know you already.
To start, reach out to:
- Previous and current bosses (especially this one!)
Connecting with people you already know will allow you to access any secondary connections they may have and LinkedIn does an excellent job of telling you about these possible conects in the sidebar on your profile.
Tip #2: Focus on Connecting with “Big People”
Write down a list of people you’re interested in connecting with — and I mean big-name people. After you have a general idea, start a routine of connecting with at least 10 people per week. Even if you only actually connect with 7 or 8 of them weekly (meaning they accept your request), this will get the ball rolling.
Eventually, once you have enough connections, individuals will start contacting you to network. This saves you a lot of time. Once you know more and more people within the LinkedIn network, the tables will be turned and others will reach out to you instead of the other way around.
Tip #3: Never Be Afraid to Reach Out!
The beauty of connecting on the internet is that you don’t need to actually experience any awkward face-to-face interactions. So there’s really no reason not to reach out!
If there are any extremely well-connected people on your list who you want to network with, you shouldn’t be discouraged from contacting them. The worst they can say is nothing. And if they don’t respond to you, no sweat, just move on and continue branching out.
Tip #4: Write a Personalized Message When Connecting with Someone
Most people when connecting don’t write a message in their invitation box. They just use the default statement, “I’d like to add you to me LinkedIn network.” Don’t do this!
Instead, you need to write something unique and specific. It should be friendly and casual; keep in mind you only have 300 characters so make it concise.
An example would be:
Please pardon the interruption. I saw you’re also connected with ___________ and __________. I don’t know you personally, but I’m from ________ and I’ve studied at ___________. It looks like we have some things in common so it’d be nice if we connected. If there’s ever anything I can do to help you, please let me know! I appreciate it.”
It needs to be short, simple, and to the point. And more often than not, they will accept your invitation because it comes off as casual and non-threatening — just don’t word your statements with any ulterior motives because that will likely turn people off to connecting with you at all.
Tip #5: Follow Up and Keep in Touch with Your Connections
After somebody accepts your connection, it’s always nice to follow up with a thank you and a suggestion to talk sometime later. Keep it real and genuine. There’s plenty of garbage on the internet, so you need to sound like you’re actually grateful they accepted your request to connect.
Thanks so much for connecting with me! It really means a lot. I saw that you’re involved in (similar interest or educational/work background) and I just love (something you really enjoy about the common interest you have).
I also really love ______ and would really like to know more about (something about their profile here).
As a _____ at ______, I may have access to people and resources that could help you. If you ever need any support, please feel free to reach out to me here.
All the best (… or have a great week/weekend/etc.),
The template above might help you, but don’t use it word-for-word. These are some key points that you should mention in your messages so that you hit all of them — however, it’s your job to be genuine and show real interest in the people you connect with.
Finally, be sure to keep in touch. That’s the whole point of LinkedIn! What good is having all these connects if you don’t actually talk to them? Send your connects a message, ask them to talk on the phone, or even schedule to grab lunch together. You need to keep in contact and make yourself an accessible and friendly person.
Conclusion: Are You Ready to Start Networking?
You have all the tips now and should be able to start reaching out and making those connections. However, I want to share one last tip with you that I find to be most important of them all:
- Give the world your best, and the world will reward you in return.
In other words, don’t ask for anything! If you are genuinely kind to people while networking and help them out without asking for anything in return, they will reach out to you when they have projects they need help with. This is the key to networking because it establishes real professional relationships.
With that in mind, you’re ready to start connecting (so you can someday reach that magic level of 500+). Keep your weekly goals in mind and shoot big even if you get turned down.
If you have any suggestions on how to improve this article, feel free to leave some comments. I always appreciate hearing from other people on how they connect through LinkedIn and expand their networks.
You can connect with me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/pub/don-osborne/0/862/696/