“The opposite of networking is not-working.” – Anonymous

Did you know that often managers and recruiters are looking at your social media profiles BEFORE they look at your resume?  The truth is that your network is what will continuously feed you work – regardless of the economic situation – if you nurture it.  In this summary we’ll learn how to create an amazing virtual profile that will help you find the work you want by building the network you need on the social media site designed specifically for that purpose: LinkedIn.

“The richest people in the world look for and build networks. Everyone else looks for work.” – Robert Kiyosaki

As in any job search situation, there are always protocols for how to use various sites. Let’s look at the basic etiquette so you look “virtually presentable” when you are starting out.

i. Understanding and using LinkedIn  

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” – African proverb

LinkedIn is a professional networking base. It is used to create and nurture a network, find like-minded people and groups, make and seek out recommendations, and to show your personal brand. It is also a place for finding work and for looking to hire. While it is not the “fastest” social network, job seekers and business owners find it to be the most credible, enduring, and useful. Here are the basic protocols for using LinkedIn:

i.a. Your profile 

  • Create a full profile that describes you and shows your strengths. Don’t just transfer your resume onto the LinkedIn profile. Think of it as a business card, then add a message that says something about you that makes others want to connect, hire, or ask you for advice
  • Get a good headshot that has you smiling and looking engagingly at the viewer and put that into your profile. Make sure you have your privacy settings adjusted to “public” or your photo won’t show on your profile
  • Know your passions and your values and put that language into your profile
  • Ask people you know personally for recommendations for about three skills you want to showcase or three jobs you have had (these can be internships or volunteer positions) and add this to your profile. Then offer to return the favour
  • Make a list of skills you want to be recommended for and ask some of your connections to click on them to recommend you – or even better, recommend them and they will usually recommend you back
  • Discuss your job search with a friend and ask for an honest look at your profile and skills, then refine your profile even more
  • When you find someone you want to connect with, send a personal message saying something about their profile and why it caught your attention.  Explain why you would like to have them in your network

Connecting with others

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Be as personal as you can when asking to connect with people; don’t just send the generic “I’d like to add you to my professional network.”  And, by the same token, when you respond to someone’s request to connect, make it warm and invitational. Quality of interactions matters a lot: do take the time to personalize your messages.  But don’t forget that quantity matters too, so…

ii. How many connections do you need?

When you first start connecting, aim for about 50 connections. If you have less, people are not likely to connect with you. The best “return” on your network is said to be about 250 connections, which means that is when the network starts working for you – assuming of course that you are putting a bit of time into it yourself. Here are some ways you can get to that number more easily according to Joshua Waldman of Career Attraction:

  1. Take photos of the people you already have business cards for. Joshua suggests using Evernote for this, though you could use other apps. Invite these people to connect since you must have met them at some point
  2. Import your email contacts list and invite as many as are applicable to connect 
  3. Use the alumni tool to connect with past classmates 
  4. Use the company search or the job title search function in LinkedIn’s Advanced Search to find colleagues you can connect with
  5. Run a people search using the word LION (LinkedIn Open Connection). These people have huge networks and are willing to connect with you so they can help you jump start your connections

ii.a. Connecting Strategically

When it comes to connection strategy, there are basically two approaches to LinkedIn:

  • Determine who you want to connect to and target people directly.  Here you focus on building a quality relationship
  • Develop a wide network and add as many people to your network as possible. This is about quantity

To be most effective you’ll want to focus on both quality and quantity connections. Deeper connections with a few people are likely to make you memorable, and you are more likely to get referrals to pertinent positions from these richer relationships.  Connecting widely and strategically will help you build more connections over a short time, enabling you to benefit from your network quickly.  Numbers can also improve your professional credibility by providing “social proof” of your expertise.  Do your best to build your network in whatever way works best for you.  The point is that you get out there and start connecting with people in the ways you think will be most effective.

ii.b. Do’s and Don’ts on LinkedIn 

Do remember that:

  • The more connections you make, the more you will show up in searches for the industry you are interested in
  • More connections = more credibility
  • People who are not in your industry might know someone who is, or they might be in your industry later

Don’t connect with people who:

  • Do not have a photo
  • Have very limited information on their profiles
  • Have a company name but no person associated with it
  • Use logos rather than photos

If someone who has an incomplete profile contacts me to connect, I usually tell the person that as soon as he/she has a photo and a complete profile I will be happy to connect. One out of 10 people actually complete their profiles – those are the people you do want to connect with. They are the “doers.”

Do start connecting with everyone you know: connect with alumni and past business connections, colleagues, and if you are a student, connect with the parents of friends. You don’t need to know them well – acquaintances are fine.

Don’t send 100 invitations at once or you will be marked as a spammer and have your account “flagged” – not a good thing. Although the exact number seems to vary depending on what article you read, it seems that between 5-20 invitations a day is acceptable.

iii. Finding work with LinkedIn 

Once you have a profile, a photo, and a respectable number of connections, you will want to get more targeted using LinkedIn for job finding. You can do this by searching for decision makers at companies where you want to work and by getting LinkedIn job alerts sent to you.

iii.a. Targeting a company

LinkedIn provides some great suggestions to help you get closer to the people you want to meet:

  • Use company profile pages to find out information about the company 
  • See if anyone in your network already works for this company: look for tweets, promotions, new directions and job posts. Follow the company to get their news feed
  • Contact someone who works for the company and ask them to introduce you. This is more likely to get you a response. If that person is not on LinkedIn or has a private profile, ask your contact if he or she will connect you via email
  • Use the InMail function to get closer to the decision maker via your contact, and eventually to the desired contact
  • When you contact the decision maker you should introduce yourself, note something you like about the company, and ask if he/she would be open to giving you some advice
  • Remember: The goal is always to get to a phone call or a face-to-face meeting 

iii.b. Getting job alerts

There is also a job search function on LinkedIn.  You can set up your preferences to receive job alerts that LinkedIn filters based on your profile information. I know many people who have been targeted for work from LinkedIn and many who found work from the job alert function. If you are interested in having head hunters contact you, the best way to do this is by contributing regularly to several group discussions and by posting regularly through the LinkedIn publishing function.  Please note the word “regularly.” Consistence is incredibly important – structure a commitment that will work for you.

iv. Nurturing your network

“It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

To keep your network alive, join groups – up to 50 that will help you find colleagues in your field, comment on people’s comments.  Be sincerely interested in what others have to say. Your expertise will become obvious, and people will reach out to you from there.  You can ask for advice within the group, and you will get some good leads and suggestions, more connections, and, potentially, job offers. Make sure you don’t brag or make it sound like your ideas are the best and other people’s ideas are terrible: this is a sure-fire way to lose influence.

Here are the three categories of people you will want to connect with according to the LinkedIn Job Search Guide 2016: 

  1. Advocates – friends and acquaintances who will give you sound advice
  2. Connectors – past connections who are willing to help you get closer to your goal and will introduce you
  3. Subject matter experts – people who know about your industry and provide advice and recommendations

Make sure you build the relationships in your groups! 86.3% of group conversations result in a lead or a sale (LinkedIn statistics 2016).

What if you are…

  • Unemployed – be more targeted in your search via networking, get your resume to a solid place using professional advice, look for an “in” that is slightly lower or higher, part time, or a foot-in-the-door opportunity.
  • Underqualified – Highlight recent accomplishments and skills rather than what you don’t have. Show how you can solve a problem.
  • Shy – Use LinkedIn company pages and pulse articles to give you ideas for how to approach people. Prepare and practice with a friend: roleplays can be incredibly effective. Imagine that the person on the other end is a helpful and compassionate individual who is happy to help, then turn the focus of the conversation away from you by making the other person feel valued.
  • Here is a handy list created by Social Media Examiner: “8 strategies for making your LinkedIn profile work for you” that will help you start connecting:
  1. Post status updates daily
  2. Engage with your connections’ updates
  3. Personalize your connection requests
  4. Add your LinkedIn URL to your email signature
  5. Join and participate in groups and consider creating your own group
  6. Add keywords to your profile
  7. Leverage local networking groups
  8. Post content to LinkedIn’s publishing platform

I suggest you read the Social Media Examiner’s post and then google any of the eight strategies you aren’t sure about with searches like:  “How to join a LinkedIn group,” “How to participate in a LinkedIn group,” or “How to create a fantastic profile on LinkedIn.” Make sure the articles you are reading are current. Some advice is evergreen, but since social media changes quickly, it is good to be aware of the most current trends.

A word of caution here: Don’t let your social network control your life. It does take about a week of intense work to get the LinkedIn profile and connections up and running, and probably a month of commenting to start getting results, but once you have your profile and connections up, it shouldn’t rule your life and take all your time. Give yourself about 30 minutes a day to nurture your networks. I alternate between LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter while some people focus only on one.

So, now you know how to start working with LinkedIn and how to make LinkedIn start working for you. In parts two and three of this series I will cover how to use Facebook and Twitter to find work, but let’s give you a few more resources to work with as you begin creating that strong virtual profile on LinkedIn.

vi. More LinkedIn resources:

LinkedIn Resources: http://www.linkedstrategies.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/LinkedIn-Quick-Start-Guide-by-Nathan-Kievman.pdf

LinkedIn official guides: https://ca.linkedin.com/topic/job-search-strategies

LinkedIn Students: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/10-tips-students-new-grads-linkedin-omar-garriott

LinkedIn Sprout article about building a bigger network:

https://www.quicksprout.com/2016/01/06/5-strategies-for-building-a-bigger-network-on-linkedin/

8 Ways to Build your LinkedIn Connections: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/8-ways-to-grow-your-linkedin-connections/

How many LinkedIn connections do you need? http://www.careerattraction.com/many-linkedin-connections-really-need/

Want to learn more?

Try our FREE webinar: “Using LinkedIn to find work in your field”

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