Chances are that you have heard the word “LinkedIn” thrown around in the professional world for quite some time now. There’s a good reason, too. LinkedIn currently has approximately 433 million users and counting, making it the number one social network for career-minded men and women around the world.
Unfortunately, for the inexperienced, the website can seem like a maze full of names and information but no user manual to help you turn those names into professional contacts. We are here to help. Read on for insider tips on how to make LinkedIn your secret weapon for networking to give your career that much-needed boost.
Consider quality over quantity
With social media, there tends to be a mentality of “the more the merrier”. We understand that, especially when starting out, having a low number of connections can make you feel weak and unimportant. How can you possibly convince people that you are a great person with only 10 meager connections?
Even so, resist the urge to connect with random people you have never met and have nothing to say about. Why? For starters, the purpose of LinkedIn is to maintain your network. Would you regard the random stranger across the street to be someone “in your network”? Would you go up to her and ask for an introduction to her boss? If (like most people) you would not, then avoid connecting with unknown profiles with whom you have nothing in common. Aside from slightly increasing your connections count, they will not do much to help you and you most likely cannot help them back.
Reach out often
One of the best parts of LinkedIn is that the site notifies you whenever a contact changes jobs, celebrates a birthday (if they disclose it), has a work anniversary, and more. Any time you see these, use them to your advantage and reach out to congratulate the person. This is a great way to stay in touch and make sure that your contacts remember you without having to do too much work. Also, you will earn karma points for being a great person because most people tend to ignore these notifications. The former coworker you congratulated probably received very little messages (or none at all), so they will certainly remember your effort.
You must remember that networking is all about giving. In fact, the more you give, the more you receive. People love generosity, so they will be very appreciative of those that give without keeping points or expecting anything in return.
How can you give on LinkedIn? The most simple way is to endorse and recommend someone. If you can vouch for someone having certain skills, feel free to show support on their profile. For those you have worked with and are quite fond of, you can take it one step further and offer to write them a nice recommendation. Most members are quite grateful for these, especially new ones without much connections, and will be happy to return the favor.
Another way to help out is by initiating warm introductions. If there are two people in your network who you think can mutually benefit each other, send them both a message using the “Share Profile” feature and explain why you are choosing to connect them. Introductions are a great way to give because they cost you nothing but can provide long-lasting results.
In this internet age, you probably know someone who met a friend through the internet. Like other social networking sites, LinkedIn offers this opportunity as well. A great way to invite others to connect with you is by writing interesting and thought-provoking articles. When you share your ideas on trends in the industry, you invite like-minded people to comment and offer feedback. These can turn into powerful discussions that may even lead to a meeting over coffee (or Skype) to further the conversation. The more articles you post, the more you put yourself out there and, as any networker knows, visibility can be extremely valuable for your career.