How to Build Your LinkedIn Network When You’re Just Starting Out
By: Janna Kefalas / July 19, 2019
I remember when I was first doing a job search, every well-meaning friend and family member would ask, “Are you on LinkedIn? You HAVE to be on LinkedIn.” (So much pressure!)
I mean, I knew that LinkedIn was a place to have a professional profile (and essentially an online resume), but I didn’t fully understand the importance of building up a solid network of connections.
Now as a career coach helping other job seekers, I’m the one constantly telling my clients how crucial it is to use LinkedIn as a networking tool. After all, with close to 600 million users worldwide, LinkedIn is THE social media platform for professionals.
But if you’ve recently graduated college or are starting your first job search, you may not fully understand how having a robust, targeted network can help you. Which leads me to…
Why Building a LinkedIn Network is So Important
It’s not just hype -- having a large network on LinkedIn can benefit you in several ways, especially if you’re just starting your career. It can lead to finding a new job, exploring a different career path, learning about a noteworthy company, or finding a mentor.
That’s because LinkedIn isn’t just about who you know (i.e. your 1st degree connections), it’s about who they know (i.e. your 2nd and 3rd degree connections).
In other words, having a large number of 1st degree connections exponentially increases your number of 2nd and 3rd degree connections. LinkedIn creates this wonderful web of contacts that paves the way for introductions, referrals and informational interviews.
Also, having a targeted network (with 500+ connections being the goal) not only gives you credibility, but makes you more visible to recruiters, hiring managers and other professionals in your industry.
Now if reaching that large number of connections feels intimidating, don’t worry! By incorporating these strategies below, you’ll start expanding your network in no time flat.
Building Your Network Through People You Already Know
The first simple, no-brainer way to build connections on LinkedIn is through friends, family and co-workers. Since they already know your skills and interests well, they’re the perfect people to introduce you to their network.
But going beyond folks you’re closest to, think about acquaintances or friends of friends. These could be people who you went to school with, play sports with, or are just part of your larger social circle. (Think Facebook friends, Instagram followers, etc.)
LinkedIn makes it super easy to search for people individually using the main search field on the upper left menu bar.
Feeling awkward about reaching out someone you haven’t talk to in eons? No sweat! You can write something like, “Hey Jen - I know it’s been forever! Hope you’re doing awesome. I thought it would be nice to connect here on LinkedIn.”
Aside from searching for people one by one using the search field, LinkedIn makes it quick and easy to send connection requests to lots of people all at once. There’s an option to enter your email address, sync your contacts, and then LinkedIn will send connection requests to the contacts you select.
The one downside of using this feature is that you’re not able to send personalized messages to each person, but if you’re looking to build your connections quickly, this is the way to go.
Building Your Network Through Alumni
You went to the same college, cheered on the same teams…and now you can be connected on LinkedIn! Regardless of whether or not you personally know a fellow alum, the fact that you share an alma mater instantly gives you something in common…and something to talk about.
If you’ve already connected with former classmates who you’re friends with, you may be wondering how to find alumni you don’t personally know but who may work in your industry. Luckily, LinkedIn makes this pretty simple.
Search for your university using the main search bar. Once on your university’s page, click on Alumni.
From there, you can put in a date range of attendance and then search by title, keyword or company.
It’s a great idea to connect with alumni a few years older than you who are working in an industry or job function you might be curious about. These alumni might be able to give you the inside scoop on how they broke into their field.
Building Your Network Through LinkedIn Groups
Many people overlook a fantastic (but underutilized) way to build connections…through LinkedIn groups! With over 2 million groups centered on various professions, industries and locations, you’ll definitely find the most relevant ones for you.
Groups are an excellent place to start conversations with like-minded professionals, learn about potential opportunities, and share resources and tips.
In order to find relevant groups, enter a type of group into the main search bar. Click the More button and then Groups.
How to Get the Most Out of Your New (Amazing) Network
After you’ve built up sizable network, you might be wondering what to do with all of these new connections. Indeed, building your network is only half the battle. Now you gotta leverage it!
If you’re doing a job search or are interested in exploring a different career path, these new connections (and their extended networks) can be vitally important to you. You now have the ability to message them and ask about scheduling an informational interview, be it over the phone or in person. These conversations can lead to learning about possible job opportunities or even just the lowdown on what a certain career is really like.
Also, if there are specific companies you’re interested in working at, LinkedIn’s company search function can reveal how you might be connected to employees there. If you have 2nd degree connections at a company, you can ask the person you know in common to make an introduction.
Remember, people join LinkedIn because they want to expand their networks and build relationships with other professionals. So don’t be shy about trying to get some conversations going. And relationship building goes both ways! Offer to introduce your 1st degree connections to others within your network.
A Few Things to Consider…
With all this talk about building up your connections and leveraging your network, I’d hate to leave out one important point: don’t make a poor first impression with a vague, half-complete profile! Your network won’t be able to help you in your career if they don’t have a clear sense of your skills and abilities.
So make sure your profile includes a professional photo and has the Experience, Education, and Skills & Endorsements sections all filled out. That way, your new connections will really get you and be able to refer you to the most relevant opportunities.
So even if you’re just starting out, these tips for building and leveraging your LinkedIn network can turbo boost your career goals and transform you into a super connected professional. Watch out world!
Janna Kefalas is a Certified Professional Career Coach and Founder of ForwardThink Careers. She helps early to mid-career professionals across industries find a job they love in the quickest and most stress-free way possible. With a background in recruiting and HR, she assists her clients with career exploration, personal branding, resume and LinkedIn profile improvements, networking, and interview preparation. Learn more about how to work with Janna one-on-one or in a group setting at forwardthinkcareers.com. You can also grab her free cheat sheet "5 Important To-Do's Before Starting a Job Search".
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