Now that you know how to write a strong LinkedIn profile, it’s time to start building your network with people you know. This should come before networking with strangers so that you build your credibility and 1st degree rapport before branching out.
It’s also important to have contacts when using your LinkedIn profile to find a new job. According to How To Change The World, you’re 34 times more likely to get approached with a job opportunity if you have more than 20 connections, as opposed to just 5 connections. That’s huge! And according to an HR rep at the company I work for, he uses LinkedIn for 90% of his engineering head-hunting.
If these stats don’t inspire you to use LinkedIn, I don’t know what will! So let’s start building your network, and then later on we’ll discuss networking, job-hunting, and advanced features of LinkedIn that can help you find opportunities.
1. Invite people you know well to connect
The first step is to invite people that you know well. This can include family, friends, current coworkers, and coworkers from your past job if it’s within the past 4-6 months. LinkedIn provides several methods to easily find your connections:
- “Search people” searchbox
- Address book – enter your Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, or AOL account email address and password to see which of your contacts are already on LinkedIn. Don’t hesitate to invite close connections to LinkedIn if they’re not already members.
- Download the outlook toolbar. Not only can you find contacts easily, but you can keep up with profile updates and changes to contact information.
2. Invite people from your past to connect
After you build your core network of relatives, friends, and current/recent coworkers, start looking for past connections that you may have lost touch with. This includes past coworkers, classmates, professors, or even people you got business cards from at conferences or other networking events.
When you invite them to connect, be sure to write a personal message instead of the default message: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Remind them how you know each other, ask how they are, say that you’d like to catch up; whatever you have to say to make it more personal than a random invitation.
One thing to keep in mind is that LinkedIn should not be treated like Facebook or other social networking sites. Even though it’s cool to randomly friend someone you knew in high school on Facebook, you want your connections to take you more seriously on LinkedIn, especially if you eventually want their help to network. That’s why that personal message can be so important.
3. Let others find you and invite you
Edit your public profile URL so that it reads http://www.linkedin.com/in/FIRSTnameLASTname
Having your full name in your profile is helpful if you want people to be able to find you via search engines (i.e. Google). It also boosts the page in Google’s page ranks, which is good when you want a recruiter to easily find the page if he does a Google search on you.
You can also use this link to let people know you’re on LinkedIn by adding it to your:
- E-mail signature
- other social networking profiles
- personal website
- signature on relevant blog comments and forum posts
4. Ask for recommendations (and give them eagerly)
Recommendations give you tons of credibility when you start networking outside of your 1st degree connections. Any insight into your work ethic and personality will be helpful to someone who hasn’t met you before.
So who should you ask for a recommendation? You can ask anyone; bosses, supervisors, co-workers, employees, classmates, friends, anyone. But remember that quality is much more important than quality when it comes to recommendations, so try to ask people that you’ve had closer connections with, because they will be the ones to write the stellar comments. Also, don’t send the generic LinkedIn request. Personalize your request so your connections know you haven’t just asked all 500 of your connections to write you a recommendation.
If you’ve asked a bunch of people to write you recommendations, and you’re frustrated because people just aren’t responding, it might not be because they don’t feel you worthy of their words. The might have their email settings restricted, or just be generally lazy about this sort of thing. So go ahead and write THEM a recommendation. Then they’ll be much more likely to write you one in return, even it’s the guilt-factor that’s motivating them: “Wellllll I shouldn’t be lazy about it, Bob just wrote me this awesome rec, and I didn’t even ask him to…”
5. Maintain your 1st degree connections
Once you start building your network, you should maintain it by reading the daily newsfeeds to see what your 1st degree connections are up to. If you see that someone got a promotion or a new job, congratulate her. If someone is now working at a company you’re familiar with, tell him to say hi to John Doe, and that he’s a great person to go to for feedback. If you see that someone is seeking employment, notify them of any opportunities you know of.
Offer support to your 1st degree connections in any way you can. There may come a day when you need to ask for more recommendations or for them to introduce you to a 2nd degree connection, so they will be more inclined to help you out.
These are the essentials of building your core network. If you have any more suggestions, feel free to comment. Next, we’ll discuss networking with strangers and CEOs, job hunting, and increasing your overall LinkedIn visibility.