If you’re a graduate looking to begin your career, a carefully crafted LinkedIn network can be a powerful tool. You can use it to secure recommendations and referrals. You can do research on prospective companies to get the inside scoop when preparing for interviews. And it could even help you to find and secure your first job.
It’s estimated that over 80% of jobs never get advertised, many getting filled directly by referrals. The old adage of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” still rings true. But with LinkedIn it’s never been easier to get your foot through the door and create an opening.
Because of this, investing some time to curate a top-notch network will undoubtedly pay dividends in the long run. Here’s how to build your connections on Linkedin.
*If you’ve not seen the first post in this series on how to create a profile on LinkedIn that will really stand out, check it out here before reading on.
Quality Over Quantity
It can be tempting to try and create as big a network as you possibly can. But boosting your numbers by indiscriminately connecting with anyone and everyone is probably not the wisest choice.
LinkedIn isn’t a popularity contest. And it’s not like other social media where you collect “friends” or “followers”. Each contact you make should have a purpose. So really ask yourself what you hope to get out of each connection before confirming it. In fact, trying to connect with people for the sake of it can have a damaging effect. Many people find it irritating when approached by users they don’t know, meaning you could create a negative impression. If you’re spamming people who may be useful in the future then you could be harming a potential relationship before it’s started.
Instead, focus initially on connecting with people you know or have at least met. From there you can then ask them for introductions to relevant people in their network. Building a network this way takes time and patience, don’t be tempted to cut corners.
Start Close to Home
Initially, the best place to start your network is with close personal contacts. That means colleagues, friends, and possibly family. However, the principle of quality still applies. Focus on associates with professional experience, or contacts that are in the industry or field you’re interested in.
An obvious place to begin is with the names that are already in your address book. You can easily do this by using LinkedIn’s “Add personal contacts” tool in the My Networks section. It allows you to sync your contacts from your email accounts before choosing which of them to connect with.
Another idea is to connect with professionals that you meet at recruitment events, recruitment fairs, and open days. They may be hiring managers or recruiters who hold the key, to a brilliant opportunity. Remind them of how you met and the discussion you had to put yourself at the forefront of their thoughts.
Send Customised Invitations
Don’t just throw invitations to connect out there and hope the recipients like the look of your profile. Instead, tailor each attempt to connect by adding a personalised message to go with it.
Useful information to include is how you know them, connections you have in common, and a specific reason for the invitation. It doesn’t need to be a long essay, but it should take the edge off an unsolicited invitation.
By getting personal and putting in a little effort you’ll greatly increase the chances of the recipient accepting your invite to connect. This is particularly useful when it comes to building relationships with important and influential LinkedIn members.
Screen Your Requests
The more contacts you gather and the better your profile, the more interest you’ll receive. But just as you should pick and choose who you connect with, be equally as protective about which invites you to accept.
You’ll regularly get requests from people wanting to join your network. Don’t simply accept them on a whim. Weigh up why they’ve contacted you, how they may be able to help you, and also how you may be able to help them.
Assisting other people on LinkedIn is a key part of widening your opportunities, as they will be far more likely to do the same in return.
Use LinkedIn Groups
Finding and joining relevant groups is a fantastic way of contacting like-minded people with similar professional interests. Look for industry related, company, and alumni groups for your school or university.
Most groups require you to submit a request to their administrator to actually join them. If they’re well run then you’ll only be accepted if your profile fits well with the theme of the group.
To get the most out of groups you need to be active in them. Posting interesting content, sharing and commenting on posts, and participating in discussions will help boost your online presence.
Show off your expertise, share your own information, and voice your opinions on subjects you’re knowledgeable about. On the back of this, you can send invitations to connect and may well receive some. Plus, it may help you may catch the eye of relevant industry figures.
*Now that you’ve got to grips with building a powerful LinkedIn network, read this article on how to use the Alumni tool to open doors for your career.