Many folks build their LinkedIn profile, add some of their friends, then call it a day. Not a good strategy for building a network.
Your online network is built and nurtured through active conversations, just like your offline network. You wouldn’t meet someone at a party and expect them to give you a job the next day. You would build a relationship with them, share information, and then move the conversation to the next level.
You need to build your online and offline network to support your overall career development. This supports you professionally not only as you look for a job, but in your career as well. The challenge is building your network with people you are only meeting online.
You need to look at some key components. First, where do you find these connections?
LinkedIn Recommendations. LinkedIn provides recommendations on “people you may know”. Some folks abuse this system and click as many people as possible to connect with. This is not being strategic and may get you into more hot water rather than hot prospects.
All online communities have a way for the community to self police and LinkedIn is no different. If you start reaching out to folks and they don’t know you, they can click “Report Spam”. Once you get a high number of these – roughly 10 – your account will be flagged. In some instances your account may be shut down for two weeks. Or your account may be restricted so you can only connect with someone if you know their LinkedIn email address, which may be totally different from their work or personal email address.
Groups. The first place I look for new connections is in groups. A few groups like “The Intelligence Community” are a great place for the security cleared community to discuss and share information.
In each group, there is a meter on the right hand side that says “Top Influencers this Week”. This is a good place to start looking for people who are active, but they also might be folks who spam the group a lot, so be picky. Also look at other group members who post articles, comment, or share information.
People from your past. At the bottom of your LinkedIn profile, there are links to lists of folks you may know. These are separated by your former employers, schools or associations. As new people join LinkedIn every day, keep an eye on this section for new prospects.
Your Network Connections. If someone in your network has open connections — meaning everyone in their network can see their full connections, both shared and unshared — this may be another avenue for connections. These connections will not be in any order, so you will have to scan the entire list to find viable connections. Treat this tactic with a lot of respect. If you start spamming someone else’s connections, it may impact your relationship with your contact and your community.
How Many Connections Do I Need
Build your connections strategically, rather than a rush to an arbitrary number. Give yourself a weekly goal of 3-4 new connections to stay abreast of what is going on in your community and industry.
If you’re the type that needs a goal, shoot for 500 connections. That is the number at which LinkedIn no longer shares the number of connections you have. Your account just says 500+. Don’t randomly connect with as many people as possible to get to this goal, because in the process you may actually hurt your networking chances and be considered a spammer.
In building your network, on LinkedIn or any other network, you need to work this every day of your career rather than looking at this as a one-time mad dash to find a job or get a contract. Networking is a skill that enhances your overall career and one that needs constant attention. Happy connecting!
Very helpful post, Kathleen! I think a lot of folks aren’t exactly sure how to optimize LinkedIn and you’ve presented a concrete approach – thanks.
Thanks Andy! It is fun to share little tips that we learn along the way. So many people are overwhelmed with all of the great networking tools like GovLoop, that they tend to not fully utilize them. This is all continuing education and one that keeps us vital and viable in our job search and career development.
Nice post, Kathleen. I’m a big fan of LinkedIn. I especially like your advice on “building your network strategically” — which takes time and effort as you astutely point out. I use LinkedIn as an electronic Roldex for professional contacts. I don’t connect to my dry cleaner or dentist, for example (not that there’s anything wrong with that, depending on one’s intentions). I connect with folks I interact with online AND offline who bring value to my network of over 800 direct first-degree contacts. Folks who share my professional and personal interests in communications, social media, PR and journalism, Government and politics, employment law and equal opportunity, for instance. I would invite YOU and other GovLoopers to connect — just send me an invite and mention GovLoop. I can be found at http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidgrinberg.
Awesome information. Thanks Kathleen!