One of the central rules of networking seems simple but bears repeating: don’t reach out only when you need something. It’s imperative that you cultivate relationships and engage with people, so when the time does come that you’re looking for that recommendation or connection, it won’t be an awkward stretch to make the ask.
Even better, you can help others. If you meet people at conferences or other events, following the exchange of business cards and the invitations to join LinkedIn networks, how can you make the most of the platform to really make an impact where it counts? Read on for 10 strategies to become a networking master.
1. Personalise it.
When you’re asking to connect with someone on LinkedIn, it’s easy to use the template the platform provides. But if you’re reaching out cold, that’s the last thing you want to do, because it won’t set you apart, or give the person a reason to connect with you. Introduce yourself, say something about why their work or business resonates with you, a bit about what you bring to the table and then thank them for their time. Don’t forget to sign your name.
2. Get offline.
Once you do have that connection, it does nothing for you as just another name on your list. Make plans to speak via Skype or meet in person. These relationships only have as much value as you put into them.
3. Make it a reflection of you.
This might seem straightforward, but as you craft your profile, make sure you have a current, clear photo of yourself, a description that is a creative encapsulation of the kind of work you do and related links to the projects that you are most proud of. Make sure that your voice is present in how you talk about your work. If you’re stuck, look at people in your industry who you admire and take inspiration from how they lay out their accomplishments.
4. Update it regularly.
You don’t want to only be using LinkedIn when you are looking for something. Constantly stay engaged, revising your resume as you get new experience and commenting regularly on what people on your network share on their accounts. Consider giving your profile the SEO treatment. You don’t want to shoehorn in terms where they don’t fit, but incorporate the industry terms you need in an organic fashion.
5. Stay involved.
Don’t forget to join LinkedIn groups for organizations you’re involved with as well as general interest groups. You’ll never know what sort of information might come up that you might be able to use or the relationships you might be able to build. Be an active participant by regularly posting relevant links, job listings and industry news.
6. Be a completist.
If you want to put your best foot forward, don’t forget to fill out every section of your profile, from certifications, professional groups you belong to, awards that you have won and industry-specific skills — for example, a coding language — that you have learned. When someone comes to your profile, you want to give them the most robust sense of your experience.
7. Make sure people can get in touch.
If you’re a freelancer, for example, and you’re comfortable with having your contact information readily available, make sure that your phone number, email and relevant social media accounts are easily accessible. By growing your network, there is no reason why you wouldn’t be able to get more clients from your presence on the platform.
8. Put out the bat signal.
Is your company hiring? Then say so right up front. Put a “we’re hiring” next to your name at the top of your profile and next to the name of your business on your company page. If someone is searching for a job in your industry, you want them to know you are in the market for some new employees.
9. But don’t forget to use discretion.
Whether you’re putting feelers out as a prospective employer or job seeker and you’re not 100 percent ready for the world to know that, feel free to use the platform’s full complement of privacy settings to travel incognito while you’re doing your due diligence.
10. Support your colleagues.
Of course, you shouldn’t forget to list your own skills, but a simple and effective way to stay active on the platform is to endorse and recommend the skills of your past and present colleagues. Don’t do this rotely or performatively. Sincerity and specificity about what makes them great at their jobs reflects well on them and speaks to your ability to be a team player.