It’s important to use this time of isolation to your benefit. One way is to spend time on LinkedIn, researching companies and building your network. LinkedIn hosts more than 600 million professional profiles and over 30 million companies and offers job seekers an almost unlimited supply of network connections and job opportunities. This professional social media platform is now an essential part of your job search. If you haven’t already set up your LinkedIn profile, now is the time to get started (see LinkedIn’s Getting Started webpage for step by step guidelines or attend the next LinkedIn Profile virtual workshop list on the Tri-Valley Career Center’s website) so that you can take advantage of this powerful networking tool.
Once you’ve set up your LinkedIn profile, you’re ready to build your network by making connections and cultivating relationships. Forbes senior careers contributor William Arruda (LinkedIn 201: How to Cultivate A Powerful Network) suggests you start by adding everyone you know on LinkedIn as a connection. After you have built this base of people you know, Arruda highlights ways to expand your network of connections: reach out, accept connection requests, connect to people who are suggested by LinkedIn, use LinkedIn groups and nurture your network.
Reach out. While many people on LinkedIn prefer to connect only with people they know, you will show up more frequently in searches and have access to more full profiles if you are willing to connect with others beyond those you know. You can make your request more personal and customized to each potential connection by using the “Personalize Invite” feature. If you connect with someone you don’t feel comfortable with, LinkedIn offers an easy process to remove, block or report a connection.
Accept connection requests. LinkedIn alerts you when you have requests, so you can decide whether you will accept or ignore each request. If you decide to accept requests, it’s better to be responsive by accepting them soon after you receive them.
Connect to people who are suggested by LinkedIn. LinkedIn has an algorithm that identifies “people you may know.” Whether you know them or not, review suggestions regularly and connect with those you think might be valuable to add to your network.
Use LinkedIn groups. Groups are a powerful networking feature because they give you access to many people who are interested in the same topics as you. You can research a variety of groups and join the ones that are related to your work experience (such as marketing or sales), social causes you support, school alumni, etc. Once you join a group, introduce yourself, let other members know you are new to the group and share something about yourself and why you are there.
Nurture your network. As you are adding people to your network, engage with them regularly to help build and nurture relationships. Suggestions for nurturing your relationships include:
- Provide status updates on a regular basis to keep yourself visible to the people in your online community.
- Like and comment on LinkedIn posts that you think are valuable and share the posts with your connections and other groups you belong to.
- Share content you find on other websites that you think would be valuable, such as articles, tips or career advice. Comment on why you think the content you’re sharing is interesting or helpful.
- Acknowledge events in your connections’ lives. LinkedIn provides notifications when someone you know has a birthday, work anniversary or new job. You have the option of “liking” the notification or sending a message to personalize your acknowledgement. Check for notifications regularly so you don’t miss any of your connections’ important dates.
Professional coach and mentor Adrian J. Hopkins (Having 500+ LinkedIn Contacts Means Nothing, Unless…) advises job seekers to focus on the quality of connections rather than the quantity. Hopkins draws a distinction between “contacts” and “connections.” Contacts are one-way: You only reach out when you need something. It’s a numbers game in which you believe your chances are better by having as many as possible. On the other hand, “connections” are two-way: You care about the people who are in your network, and you try to offer them as much as you hope to receive.
Hopkins offers several suggestions to help you attract and engage with more worthwhile connections, including:
Maximize the effectiveness of your LinkedIn profile by making sure your photo, headline and summary all tell a compelling story about who you are and what you have to offer (see The 31 Best LinkedIn Profile Tips for Job Seekers). You can also request recommendations from people you’ve worked with so new connections have an impression of how you’ve helped others. If you can show that you’re worth connecting with, you’ll have a better chance of drawing higher quality connections.
Curate your online presence by making sure you’re comfortable with what appears on your other public social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, etc.), or consider making them private. You can also use your social media to support your credentials and reputation by posting about your volunteer work, community involvement or other worthwhile activities.
Always write a personal note when requesting to connect or following up with connections. Place your message in context, such as “I’ve enjoyed reading your blog” or “I see we worked at Yahoo at the same time.” Then briefly introduce yourself and invite the person to connect in real time.
Take your connections to the next level by trying to move them from online to offline. Ask for an informational interview and suggest a phone call, video chat or in-person meeting. Let your connection know that you would like to learn more about his/her company and role. See Informational Interviews are a Form of Networking by job search strategist Hannah Morgan to learn more about how to ask for an informational interview.
LinkedIn can be a powerful tool to expand your network and boost your job search. The key to unlocking the power of networking on LinkedIn is to approach it step by step and think of it as an ongoing project that can serve you not only now but also throughout your career.