Some people estimate that anywhere from 50% to over 80% of positions are filled through networking. Of course, you can’t discuss this subject without mentioning LinkedIn—the world’s largest professional network on the internet. With over 900 million users worldwide, LinkedIn is a powerful tool. Even recruiters find it useful, with over 85% of them using it to vet job candidates.
When looking to land your next job, it takes more than blindly applying to online ads and waiting for a response. You must take an active role so recruiters and hiring managers see your true value. If you’re ready to take the next steps in your job search, these five LinkedIn networking tips will help you succeed.
Update your profile
While it might seem obvious, this is the number one mistake I see on LinkedIn—outdated or incomplete profiles. Your LinkedIn profile is frequently the first thing recruiters and hiring managers see—even before your resume. But if it’s not optimized, your chances of being found dwindle—along with your opportunity to land that next gig. Here are some ways to create a captivating LinkedIn profile:
- Update the skills section
- Start with a professional headshot and background photo
- Write an eye-catching headline that describes your skills and ideal job title
- Craft a summary (”about” section) that showcases your personality and achievements
- Get great endorsements from people you respect
The purpose of LinkedIn is to elevate your personal brand. Maintaining a robust profile highlighting your most valuable achievements will make you more likely to land your next job.
Proactively grow your network
Now that you’ve revised your profile, it’s time to expand your network. Start with the people you know. That includes connecting with friends, relatives, classmates, current and former colleagues and other professionals. Joining LinkedIn groups and attending online events are also good ways to make new connections and grow your network. Besides connecting, it’s also important to engage with people by liking, commenting and sharing their posts. Finally, creating and sharing original content will help increase your visibility and help build your personal brand. Remember, networking isn’t about accumulating LinkedIn connections or reaching out to people only when you need a job. It’s about exchanging ideas and building fruitful relationships over time.
Have a well-thought-out strategy
All too often, people reach out to others on LinkedIn with a vague “I’d like to pick your brain” email or an outright sales pitch. And then there’s the generic, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Instead, have a networking strategy and be precise. For example, are you seeking more information about a role or company? Or maybe you’re hoping they can share a little about their career path.
Here’s an example of an email that is flexible and specific:
I’m an iPEC prospective student and am interested in hearing about the experience from an alumnus’ perspective before making a decision. Would you be willing to connect for 20 minutes to share your experience? I appreciate the consideration!
This email shows how being concise, honest and specific can prepare your networking contact for a productive and efficient exchange of ideas.
Focus on moderately weak ties
While building an extensive network is essential, fostering the right kinds of connections is critical, according to a five-year experiment published in Science. The researchers looked at the LinkedIn networks of over 20 million people, during which 2 billion new ties and 600,000 new jobs were created. Then, they analyzed the strength of a connection and whether it led to a new job. You might think networking with a close friend impacts job mobility more than networking with an acquaintance. But the study found that “weak ties” (a larger set of people you know less well) resulted in more jobs than strong ties. Ultimately, the sweet spot seemed to be “moderately weak ties” (around 10 mutual connections between people). This is because more casual acquaintances have social networks that are less likely to overlap with your own. As a result, you have access to information or connections you wouldn’t otherwise.
Ask for advice
Networking isn’t about asking for favors. It’s about building relationships. Rather than asking your networking contact for a job, ask for advice. Start by doing your homework. That way, it will be easier to establish common ground. For example, maybe you read one of their recent articles or saw them speak at a business conference. When you reach out, highlight your shared interests and connections to establish a friendly relationship. Then ask them for a few minutes of their time. Make it easy by offering a few options. If they don’t respond right away, reach out one more time. Then once you do connect, follow up with a thank you note. Gratitude is a powerful relationship builder.
Most people don’t like reaching out to strangers on LinkedIn. But it’s necessary to put yourself out there to reap the rewards. I promise that with time and practice, it gets easier. You might be just one conversation away from your next job. Now go out there and step outside your comfort zone!