For your career, LinkedIn is probably the number one tool you can use. As the number one networking tool, it allows you to build your credibility, keep in touch with your current network and grow your contacts.
I always talk to people about the importance of having connections, ideally 500+ as it opens so many new doors for you (500+ is the magic number as stated by LinkedIn). But when you are starting from scratch or even 100, it can seem incredibly daunting to get to that number so here are 5 easy steps you can follow guaranteed to get you to 500!
First of all, why?
Well as your number of first degree connections grow, the number of second and third degree connections grow too. This is key for you to be found on LinkedIn as when a recruiter searches for talent for a new job, say “electrical engineer” in Toronto, Ontario they will really only see their 1st-3rd degree connections and group members. So if you don’t have a lot of connections you risk not even coming up in their search. If you have recruiters knocking on your door it is freeing up some of your job searching time for networking, research or staying inspired!
Maybe you are thinking, well I don’t care about recruiters. In fact I don’t want to be found and contacted. BUT, if you want complete control of your career then you need to know what is out there. You can always politely decline, but at least you are given the opportunity.
Plus, think beyond new job opportunities, a robust LinkedIn Profile which includes 500+ connections can increase your credibility to internal and external clients and stakeholders. Essentially those connections are like individual endorsements of your work and professional reputation.
If you are searching for a new job, then leveraging LinkedIn for networking is a must. Networking is made easier when you have 500+ connections as it allows you to see the people you want to – potential hiring managers, peers, people that may be able to offer some great advise.
And don’t forget those pesky resume reading bots, remember some of them check your connections to see how well connected you are within their industry!
Okay, enough with the why! You want to know the how:
1. Connect with Me and other “Elite Expert Tier” Individuals
One way to immediately increase your third-degree connections is to connect with myself. I have about 3k connections and a connection with me would instantly make you a third-degree connection with those individuals. On someone’s profile page you will see the number of connections that they have, so when you come across an individual in an industry or role that is relevant who have 500+ connections definitely send a connection request.
There are also individuals who classify themselves as LIONs, these are people going after the 30k connection limit. A lot of them have their number of connections in their headline, so it is easy to find someone with 10k+ connections, having one or two would be worthwhile!
2. Use your Existing Network
The easiest way to get a big jump on your connection numbers is to sync your contact list to LinkedIn, if you have multiple email accounts make sure you sync all lists! Make a list of people you have worked with, met at events, go through your stack of business cards and manually search for those individuals using the search bar.
You can go through their connection lists to find other people you may know. You can also see if they are connected with people you want in your network, then you can ask them to “introduce” you increasing the likelihood that the new individual will become a valuable member of your network.
This step is probably the most time intensive, however these will be the most beneficial connections for you and your career so it is well worth it.
3. Company Pages
You can visit your current or previous company pages, or the company pages that you want to work at. Those pages will give you instant access to all the employees that work there and you can also tailor the search to previous employees and specific locations, job titles, etc.
This is a great way to find people you worked with but maybe didn’t stay in touch with allowing you to reconnect.
Focusing on your ideal companies allows you to build a network within them and are great for referrals and for setting up Informational Interviews.
These are connections that matter – people you worked with that can vouch and advocate for you and people who want to work with that can open new doors for you or give you key information that you can use.
4. Groups and Alumni
There is an ongoing problem with LinkedIn groups with decreasing levels of engagement so while being active on groups probably won’t help you in your career, being members of groups will. Being a member of a relevant group allows you access to individuals you may not have otherwise. So looking for applicable groups (school alumni, industry, associations, etc) is your first step. Ask to join and then you can go through the group members and send out connection requests.
Using LinkedIn’s Alumni portal (www.linkedin.com/alumni) is amazing in terms of the people and insights it provides. Like groups, it makes people more accessible to you allowing you to build your connections in industries and companies you want even if they are out of your network (you aren’t a 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree connection).
5. Get your profile out there
Get people to reach out to you first! Optimize your own LinkedIn profile, making sure it is set up to get you noticed and full of key words to bring you up in searches.
Remember when I wrote about selling yourself? Take some of those ideas and apply them here. Post on Facebook including your LinkedIn Profile link asking your Facebook friends to connect with you (you can do the same on Twitter). Include your link in your email signature, your Twitter profile, your resume, etc. Anywhere it makes sense really.
5 easy steps. That is all it takes to start building your network within LinkedIn. I’ll look out for your connection request!
If your LinkedIn needs an overhaul, I can help with that. Or do you need help with networking in general? I offer networking training and coaching teaching you how to get noticed and create connections. I am passionate about using networking in your career and job search as it has worked countless times for myself and now my clients, next week I'll tell you a little more about that!
Sara Curto, Career Management Specialist. Working with you towards Career and Job Search Success.