Most people know that they should build their professional network, but many don't or spend less time than they should on the process. Building a strong network on LinkedIn can help you stay in touch with people and to make it easier to help them over their careers. Here are the easiest and most effective ways to build a strong professional network on LinkedIn.
Why it Matters
It is important to understand why your network matters before starting to grow it online. There are lots of reasons why people want to grow their professional networks on LinkedIn.
The data from LinkedIn shows that it is important for your career regardless of whether you are looking for a job right now or not. For example, LinkedIn reports that conversations between connections doubled in 2020. And, LinkedIn also reports that there are 14 million jobs posted on LinkedIn and 100M applications through the site. But, only about 4 Million people get hired through LinkedIn each month. So, statistically speaking, your chances of landing a job through a cold application on LinkedIn are about 4%. That's it.
Beyond the sheer numbers of applications, companies have also consistently reported that people that have a referral for a job are still 4x more likely to get an interview. So, people that build strong networks and tap into them have a huge advantage in their professional efforts. The following are proven ways to easily grow and engage your network on LinkedIn.
#1 - Complete Your Profile
You cannot effectively build connections if you do not have a strong LinkedIn profile. Filling out all of the information is important to not only creating a professional image, but also makes it easier for you to find the people that you know professionally.
All of the fields on LinkedIn are mapped to other systems and specialized modules in the LinkedIn system. So, where you put information is just as important as what you say and how you say it. Make the most of your profile by fully completing it. Your profile also doesn't have to be perfect to start building your connections. It simply needs to be a complete profile of your experience and you can (and should) continue to improve it over time.
#2 - Find People You Know
After completing your LinkedIn profile, you will be prompted by the system for people that "You May Know" in the "Network" tab. You can scroll through this area endlessly to find potential connections and people that you know. Take the time to do this regularly and make sure that you do it for a set period of time.
Checking back in this section on LinkedIn will enable you to find new people on the platform or to find people that you haven't seen before. The system will also make recommendations based on people that you have connected with. Thus, as your connections grow, so do the system recommendations for people that you may want to know.
Another easy way to grow your network on LinkedIn is to pull your contacts from the various work, school, and other email accounts that you may have. You can do this by working through your emails and/or contacts on those systems. It may feel tedious but this is an important way to create those connections that can extend well beyond the time that people are at any particular organization or in any particular job.
#3 - Sync Your Phone Contacts
An easy way to kick start your network is to download the LinkedIn app on your phone. After that, you can opt to import your contacts on LinkedIn. This will help to automate the invites based on the contacts that you already have stored on your phone. Be careful when doing this to make sure that you really want to send out the LinkedIn connection invites to the contacts that are on your phone. You can always disconnect from someone, but best to avoid creating an issue for yourself if your current employer or clients would be sensitive about such a thing.
#4 - Send Connection Invites
You cannot grow your LinkedIn network unless you actually send out connection invites. You can endlessly view people and information on the site, but you need to put that information to work for you to actually grow your professional network. People on LinkedIn are also not on the system for a long time and not everyone is on the platform daily. So, growing your network can take time.
Everyone is different when they see and accept connection invites. Some people will accept your invites right away and others will only see it when they get on the system on a monthly basis. So, remember that growing your network takes time and that you may need to follow up with people in that process to let them know that you reached out on LinkedIn.
#5 - Join Groups
Another easy way to create meaningful connections on LinkedIn is to join the groups on the system. This will enable you to find people with shared interests and/or experiences. Groups on LinkedIn are quite different than those on FaceBook or other social media platforms. Some LinkedIn groups are quite active and people really do go there to help others in their industry or field. But, some are dormant or less than helpful for your professional networking purposes.
Be strategic about the types of groups that you join on LinkedIn. Make sure that you are a member of the groups that people would expect someone like yourself to be a member of. And, make sure that you are participating in those groups in a way that is permitted under the group rules as well as a way that is on message with your current professional goals. Many LinkedIn groups are public and that means that anyone on LinkedIn can see your activity if they really wanted to. And, that information can get shared off the system depending on how you are sharing the information. So, join groups, connect with people in those groups, and participate in the conversations in the groups whenever it makes sense for your professional goals.
#6 - Alumni Networks
Almost every school has an alumni network on LinkedIn. There are also many sub-groups for larger schools for the individual colleges at the institution. You can also find booster groups and chapters of alumni groups in cities well beyond the borders of your college town.
Similarly, you can join these groups on LinkedIn to expand your network. Many people here have a shared experience or interest in connecting with other people that happened to go to the same school. People in these groups are not merely new grads. And, many of these connections run deep for the long term for certain academic institutions. So, make the most of your education and tap into the deep alumni network on LinkedIn to find and connect with people. Doing so will create surprisingly deep and long-term connections for many people over the course of their careers.
#7 - Connect with People at the 2nd and 3rd Degree
LinkedIn enables most people to see the connections of people in your network. A first-degree connection is someone that you are already connected with. A second-degree connection is a person that is connected to someone that you are connected with. And, a third-degree connection is someone that is connected to someone that is connected to someone that is in your LinkedIn network.
Mine this data to your advantage. You can do this to grow your connections and to proactively reach out to people with a bit more context in those first messages. Or, you can use this information to find people that you already know but simply aren't connected with. Using these filters in the people section of LinkedIn will make your efforts to grow your LinkedIn network that much more effective.
#8 - Ask for Introductions and Referrals
An easy way to grow your network on LinkedIn is to ask for help in that process. People that are active networkers are always happy to help others grow their professional network. And, generally, most people that have connected with you will be willing to make introductions or recommendations of other people that you should talk to when asked directly.
So, make a point of asking people that you already know if there are any other people that they know that you should connect with. The more specific you are in how you ask your contacts makes it easier for people to think of individuals that may be of interest. You can be too specific in this request, but your contacts will appreciate a bit of guidance in what you are looking for and how they may b able to help you reach your goals.
#9 - Try Premium
The value of LinkedIn Premium for some people is the access to in-mails. These enable you to message people before connecting with them. This will also enable you to greater visibility on the system about skills and people that you may not otherwise see on LinkedIn.
And, like anything, if you do not have the time or the interest, LinkedIn Premium will not be of value. You have to be able to use the features and to commit to using them to grow your network. So, for many, the best option is to try out the LinkedIn Premium to see if it is a good match for your professional goals at this time. You can always cancel it if you don't use it during the trial or otherwise.
#10 - Send a Message when Connecting
You can send out a lot of connection invites on LinkedIn. But, many people will view them as spam if you don't include an explanation of why you are. There are a lot of reasons why you may be connecting with someone and they may not always be clear to the other person. So, make it easy for the person receiving your invite to see why you are reaching out.
A simple sample message to include in your connection invite could be:
"Hi Kathy, it looks like we went to the same school. We were there at different times, but I always like to collaborate with fellow Hawkeyes. Let's connect on LinkedIn and continue the conversation."
"Hi Kathy, it looks like we have a number of shared connections. I'm working on growing my network on LinkedIn and think that you would be a strong addition. Let's connect on here and explore how we may be able to collaborate."
The point being, give the person a quick, customized message about who you are and why you are reaching out. You don't have to know the person right now to have shared connections and interests. Make sure to keep the message clear and professional and it will make it easy for the person to click "Accept" for your invite.
#11 - Engage Your Network Regularly
The most important part of growing your network is to make sure that you do so with the purpose of engaging that networking regularly. A meaningful professional connection requires some effort to continue the conversation after the person clicks accept. There are lots of ways that you can do that over your career.
The best strategy to engage the connections in your LinkedIn network is to tailor your message. You have connected with each of the people in there for different reasons over the course of your career. And, those people all have different things that they can help you with in the future or that you can help them with.
Make sure that you are keeping track of these people and attempt to make an effort to check in with each of those people at least 1x a year. For some, that may be too much and for others, that may be too little. But, checking in regularly with people directly or through LinkedIn will go a long way to deepening those connections that you just worked so hard to build.
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