LinkedIn has taken professional social networking to the next level. Now, more than ever, it is incredibly important to have a professional online presence, and LinkedIn is essentially your expanded online CV. It offers you the unique opportunity of showcasing your professional achievements, whilst building a strong network and exploring its vast job board. The platform also makes you visible to recruiters, which can be instrumental for your progression and development oppourtunities.
1. Creating Your Profile
The first step is to ensure you have that ‘all-star’ profile, which is fairly easy to accomplish as long as you complete the step-by-step guide that LinkedIn offers. However, there are two main elements to focus on for your profile:
- The initial impression: Created by having a professional picture and a snappy headline!
- The lasting impression: Through a comprehensive work experience and volunteering profile.
These are the basics – so start by really focusing on these three things, and getting it right. The rest can follow, although, if you want to get the most out of LinkedIn, it is worth trying to complete your entire profile. For example, completing the ‘skills’ section, will make it easier for you to identify jobs that match your skill set, and if you have a skill(s) that the employer/job vacancy prefers or deems essential – LinkedIn will flag that up! Similarly, there are advantages to completing the other sections to ensure that you are getting the most out of what the platform has to offer.
2. Building Your Organic Network
The first step is to start reaching out to your colleagues, classmates, teachers – and other professional contacts. It doesn’t matter if you have a small network to start with. Simply reaching out to the people in your life will start the crucial chain of networking.
Remember: LESS is more!
If you are feeling apprehensive about the idea of networking – a lot of people are (I was too!) – then just try to remember these 4 simple steps:
- L – LEARN & LISTEN intently and actively to your contact. You are connecting for a reason – you want to learn from them (and yes, hopefully, you can help them in the future too!). Respect their time.
- E – ENGAGE regularly and meaningfully with your contacts. There are many ways to do this, such as commenting or liking their posts, tagging them in interesting articles, etc.
- S – SHARE your insights and ask questions to make the most of your connection. In this way, you can directly message your contact with information you might have come across or questions that you have.
- S – SEND YOUR REGARDS – a little thank you goes a long way! This seems like something obvious, but it is so important, and you’d be surprised how often it is forgotten. THANK your contacts for the time they have given you.
This acronym can be applied to all kinds of networking – not just for your organic network, but for your targeted searches as well! But first, how do you go about finding new and relevant connections?
3. Strategies for Finding Targeted Company Contacts
In my experience, the best way to maximise your LinkedIn contact search is using a targeted approach. I spent months and months, at the start of my MBA, engaging in what LinkedIn calls ‘power searches’. Not only was I unsuccessful in finding the contacts relevant to my interests and career goals, LinkedIn is quick to identify your random searches as a ‘power searcher’ and will limit how much of it you can do in a month. Definitely not the way to go!
So, I tried a more targeted, systematic and focused approach – which helped me build a more refined network and gave me access to finding incredible speakers to start my own webinar series at the business school! Here is a quick step-by-step guide below:
- Narrow your search: Start by picking one industry that you are interested in, or wish to pursue. Make a list of 5 companies to begin with. Start with your top most preferences. If you are unsure, start with a simple search: Which are the top organisations in that industry?
- Your organic network: Firstly, this is the place to start. You never know, you may already have contacts from your desired organisations. These are the first people to reach out to, because you already know them and they know you!
- School and university alumni: It is all about identifying a common ground, so this is your next go-to place. If you’ve completed your LinkedIn profile properly and filled out the education section thoroughly (this is why it’s important to do so!), then when you go to any company page, at the top, it will show you if there are any people with the same background and/or education. Alternatively, you can always reach out to your school, college or university careers team to get some suggestions and connections.
- Find interesting events: In my experience, this has been a full-proof way to establish connections. I have had the chance to get to know so many companies and their employees in this way, and built some great connections – who have been extremely helpful and insightful. I can already think of three examples at the top of my head – I met Anna Tacconi from Johnson & Johnson (her webinar is already up on the blog!), Terry Duhon, Non-Executive Director and Risk Chair at Morgan Stanley International, and Sabine Mueller, CEO of DHL Consulting (both their webinars are coming up next! Stay tuned for these excellent webinar features). I was introduced to them all through either company events, collaborations and guest panel events – and they all struck me as brilliant individuals, so I made sure I followed up and got in touch. And voila!
- Targeted LinkedIn search: Finally, this is the last resort to finding relevant contacts. If you have to do a search on LinkedIn, then just make sure it is as targeted and specific as possible. What I mean by this is, use the filters on the LinkedIn search as much as you can. Filter by company, location and most importantly, under ‘keywords’, put the most relevant job title that you are interested in, such as Marketing Manager or Digital Project Manager. Get really specific! Ultimately, you want to get in touch with those people who are in similar roles, departments and areas of your interest. This is will help you engage in relevant conversations.
- Big no-no! Reaching out to a lot of HR or Talent Acquisition personnel – they already have such a load of different roles on their plates, and although they may be able to help you link up with currently available roles at the initial point of contact, it is unlikely that they will remember you! After all, they interact with so many candidates on a daily basis. The only reasons to pursue this networking route, is if all of the above has been unsuccessful (unlikely, but still…). The best thing to do is to ask them to get you in touch with the relevant person according to your areas of interest – as these people are likely to be current or future hiring managers. They will also post and share the most relevant job postings and opportunities.
4. Taking That First Bold Step
It will always be up to you as the ‘interested party’ to make the first move. No matter how you’ve found your contact, you need to make that bold move and start the conversation. This is definitely the most daunting aspect of networking and what gives networking that scary reputation – but again, simplifying things will help make it doable. Are you ready for my second (and last, I promise) acronym of the day?
Only share a little CLIP!
The idea behind this acronym is keeping it short and simple, and it is inspired from the 4-point/5-point/6-point email concepts, which is taught is so many business schools – definitely covered extensively during WBS’ MBA programme to get a comprehensive understanding of how to tackle this aspect of networking well. However, an easy and quick start that everyone can do is this:
- CONTEXT: Provide context of who you are.
- LINK: Draw a link as to how you found them. Alumni? Webinar? Event?
- INTEREST: Express what you are interested in finding out.
- PROPOSE: Suggest a quick 10-15 minute chat as per their convenience.
For example, “Hi, I am a current MBA student from Warwick Business School, and I found your contact through the alumni database. I am getting in touch to find out a little bit more about life as a consultant, particularly in the healthcare industry. Please let me know if you have 10 minutes sometime this or next week, for me to pick your brains on this. “
You are ready to go!
PS: Coming up, next 4 steps on how to prepare for a networking meeting and make a lasting impression!