“Dig your well before you’re thirsty.” This is one of my favorite sayings. You don’t want to wait to develop a network until you need a job. Rather, you want to build those connections before you need them. Not only can a network help you with jobs (85% of jobs are gained through networking), but it can also help you gain a new perspective, understand more about an organization, or foster a powerful connection.
Here are my top 4 tips for how you can utilize your LinkedIn profile to build and cultivate a strong network.
Tip #1 Make a Great First Impression
First impressions matter, so before you begin building your network on LinkedIn, it’s important to have a complete profile.
There are multiple parts of your profile: the headline, summary, education, photo, skills, recommendations, URL, projects, experience, groups, coursework, etc. Fill out as much as you can: the more detail you can include, the more someone can understand your skills, experiences, and strengths. I recommend uploading projects or presentations you’ve done, so people can get a glimpse of who you are and what you’ve accomplished.
To check out some tips on how to expand your profile, check out our recent article here.
Tip #2 Think about Your Brand
Your accomplishments, photo, and story encompass your personal brand, so it’s important when you’re creating your profile to consider how you present yourself. Ask the following questions:
· How can I present my personal brand on LinkedIn?
· What image am I putting out there?
· Is the image reflective of where I want to work?
· Pay attention to your language. What do you talk about in your summary?
· What skills do you highlight?
· What organizations are you following?
· What groups are you a member of?
Be consistent in how you present yourself and your language. For example, let’s say you’re an English major, and you want to be a writer. Perhaps you share in your summary that you’re all about storytelling, and you love writing––and then within your experience section, you list out dry statements. In this case, you might want to take another stab at your profile that showcases your talent telling stories about your experience.
Tip #3 Be active
One of the worst things you can do is only use your LinkedIn profile when you need a job or internship. You get the most value from your profile when you’re active. Log in every day with intention. Like anything else, you gain what you put in. Here are a few of my favorite ways to engage with LinkedIn:
1. Write articles: I used to feel like I wasn’t “expert” enough to share my insight on LinkedIn. However, I have come to love writing articles on LinkedIn. It’s a great way to establish credibility, and there is no barrier to entry. Share practical advice for other individuals who might be seeking an internship after you completed one or perhaps you could share your take-aways about a book you read relevant to a particular career. If you choose to write something, be sure to have someone review it.
2. Share content: If it feels intimidating to write your own content, consider sharing other’s content. Share meaningful articles, resources, or relevant information, while offering your perspective. Ask others to comment on what stood out to them in the article.
3. Engage with your network’s content: Whether that is to offer an encouraging word or respond to questions that others may have posed.
4. Connect your network with others: You can also offer value to your followers by offering to connect others to those in your network. You might think, “I’m still in college and building my network – I don’t know a lot of professionals.” But YOU DO! You might have a family member who works in an industry that one of your peers is interested in, or an old colleague of yours from a part-time job who is now working in an industry that one of your classmates wants to pursue. There is so much power in your network, and this is a great way that you can give back to those in yours.
5. Join groups: Use LinkedIn groups to engage in conversations with people in like-minded industries or organizations. You can share content that is relevant and valuable, or you can pose a question. If there are no groups that fit your interests – create a LinkedIn group and invite other people to join the group who may find it beneficial. Then begin conversations.
However, you choose to engage on LinkedIn, do so consistently, and do so keeping your brand in mind so you’re consistent.
Tip #4 Connect
Now that you have a strong profile consistent with your brand, and are actively engaging in LinkedIn, now is the time to intentionally build out your network. Utilize the “People you may know” tab to thoughtfully connect with those you already know. This may be family, classmates, colleagues, a manager, etc. Personalize the connection request so if it’s been a while since you talked with that person, they know who you are and why you’re connecting.
Next, engage with who you want to know. Are you hoping to enter into the Accounting/Finance industry? Look to see if anyone you are connected with already has a connection in that industry. For example, say you want to work at Deloitte. Type Deloitte into the search bar on LinkedIn, and then look at the people who work there. Anyone who has a 2nd by their name is someone in your network who is connected to that person. A good rule of thumb is to ask your connection if they might be willing to introduce you to the person you want to know. If you don’t have a second-degree connection, you can also reach out. However, we recommend tailoring that connection request to share why you’re reaching out. Never blind connect! Last, you can use groups to build your connections. If you’re in the same group as someone, you can send a connection request (tailored, of course), whether you have 2nd or 3rd-degree connections.
If you would like support building your network or fine-tuning your profile, the Office of Career & Professional Development is available. Book a session in the studio to discuss!