According to one popular estimate, 85 percent  of jobs are filled through networking. Many open positions aren’t ever posted on job boards or advertised publicly.

As a job seeker, you can’t afford to focus solely on applying to online job ads and waiting for the phone to ring. If you’re going to be an active participant in your own career development, you have to put yourself out there.

So, let’s cut the excuses and get networking on LinkedIn:

1. Connect With People at Companies Where You Really Want to Work

A job doesn’t have to be open at a company for you to network your way in. In fact, the best time to network is when a job isn’t being advertised. That way, when a role does open up, you’ll already be in the mix.

Find employees who work in the departments you’re interested in joining. Reach out and ask for some advice. See if they’d be willing to have an informational chat over coffee or the phone.

2. Utilize Your Alumni Network

Your alumni network is a valuable resource and rich community — and LinkedIn makes it relatively easy to find and connect with these people. You may have graduated years apart, but the bond an alma mater creates between alumni is rather strong. Don’t make the mistake of only networking with more senior alumni. Younger alumni still have valuable insights to offer and connections to make.

3. Engage With the Platform

The more active you are on LinkedIn, the more contacts you’ll make. Take the time to comment on posts or share posts of your own. If you keep commenting on articles that someone publishes, you’ll become “known” to them despite never having met in person. Adding insightful comments is also a way to highlight your unique point of view.

4. Project Your Professional Value

When you reach out to a contact, they’re probably going to view your profile before deciding whether to respond. Show your professional value with a completed, detailed profile that includes samples of your work. You want your profile to offer the viewer a sense of who you are, what your personal brand is, and the strengths you bring to the workplace. Keep your profile up to date, and be sure it represents who you are and the career path you’re carving out for yourself.

5. Work Your Way Around Job Postings

When looking at job posts on LinkedIn, you may sometimes see that the job poster is visible. If so, reach out to them directly. You want to make the poster aware that you’ve applied while also expressing your excitement for the role. Be sure to check out the poster’s profile to see if you have any connections in common who can facilitate an introduction.

When viewing a job posting, you’ll also see people in your network who can connect you to others at that company. Don’t use LinkedIn’s auto-generated message to make these requests! Send authentic messages, and only ask for introductions from people with whom you have a real connection.

Once you’ve made a connection with someone at your target company, introduce yourself. Reference the position you’re interested in, and then ask if the person can shed some light on the role or offer some pointers before you apply. If you meet this person and hit it off, it’s quite possible your new contact will offer to pass on your information to the proper decision-makers!

A version of this article originally appeared on the Atrium Staffing blog.

Michele Mavi is Atrium Staffing‘s resident career expert.

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