Welcome to the Ultimate LinkedIn Guide!
In part one of this series, we looked at a checklist you can use to optimize your LinkedIn profile. This post will address how to optimize your LinkedIn network. As we address each step in optimizing your network, cross off the ones you feel you are succeeding at.
Why Connecting With LinkedIn Members Is Important
It’s not evident to enough people that LinkedIn is built on a foundation of making connections and nurturing relationships. Yes, creating a strong profile is important, as is engaging with your LinkedIn connections (which we’ll address in part three). However, actually building your LinkedIn network is essential.
Some of my clients have told me they only want to connect with people they already know. If you take this approach, you are not going to expand your network, and you will therefore limit your career opportunities. Instead, you should aim to connect with as many likeminded people as you can.
How Not to Connect
The No. 1 rule when connecting with LinkedIn members is to always send a personalized invitation. There is no deviating from this rule. Simply clicking “Send now” lacks creativity. Instead, always add a note. (We’ll get into writing a proper note later in this post.)
The following ways to connect will not give you the opportunity to send a personalized invitation. Rather, these methods will simply state your name and give the recipient of your invitation the option to ignore or accept (see below). When I receive invites like these, I always click “Ignore” with no remorse.
1. By Importing Contacts
Never connect with people on LinkedIn by importing your contacts (see below). All this does is send mass, impersonal invites to your email contacts.
2. Through ‘People You May Know’
When you click “Connect” in the “People you may know” section, your invite goes straight through to the recipient with no chance to write a personal invitation.
3. Using The ‘Connect’ Button on LinkedIn’s Mobile App
Like the aforementioned invitation methods, the “Connect” button on LinkedIn’s mobile app will automatically send a default message. Avoid it.
The Correct Way to Connect
Connecting correctly means taking the time to read a potential connection’s LinkedIn profile and then writing a personalized invitation. Here is an example of a personalized invite:
One thing you may want to note: While it is easy to find the “Connect” option on the profiles of second-degree contacts, LinkedIn hides this option on the profiles of third-degree contacts. To connect with a third-degree contact, click on the ellipsis beside the “Message” button (see below).
Contrary to what many believe, you can connect via the LinkedIn mobile app and still send a personalized invite. You just have to avoid the tempting “Connect” button. Instead, open the person’s profile and then click the “More” button (see below).
With Whom Should You Connect?
Your LinkedIn network is your lifeblood. Without a strong network, you will not be successful on LinkedIn. If you are wary of reaching out to people you don’t know, you’ll have to get over it. I tell my clients that the only way they’ll get to know people is by inviting them to their network, or vice versa.
How Many Connections Is Enough?
LinkedIn members have opinions on how many people should be in one’s network. Some believe a smaller, more focused network is better, whereas others believe the more, the better. Honestly, the number of people in your network is your prerogative.
That said, if you have less than 400 connections, you might not be taken seriously by some recruiters.
Regardless of your target network size, there are different tiers of people you will want to approach:
First Tier (Bottom): Your former colleagues and supervisors, as well as vendors, partners, etc. Connecting with these people first makes the most sense, as they know your work and can vouch for you.
Second Tier: People in the same occupation and the same industry as you. As an example, if you’re an accountant in the manufacturing industry, you would search for other accountants in manufacturing.
Third Tier: People in the same occupation as you but in a different industry. These people have less in common with you, but can still be of assistance. Continuing on from our previous example, an accountant in the IT industry may know of other accountants in manufacturing to whom they can introduce you.
Fourth Tier: Recruiters are an important group of people for many job seekers. I always suggest to my clients that they reach out to recruiters, as they can connect you to opportunities you may have otherwise been unaware of.
Fifth Tier: Connecting with people at your target companies is the quickest way to get to know decision-makers at organizations where you want to work. Try to connect with people at your level or people who could be your direct supervisor.
Sixth Tier (Top): Your fellow alumni can be beneficial to you because of the common bond you share. This tier of people is particularly helpful to recent grads entering the workforce with little job experience and small professional networks.
Finding Potential Connections
LinkedIn is a massive database of professionals around the world. Finding people is not difficult if you know how to use LinkedIn’s features.
The most obvious way to look for someone by occupation is to use the search function. For example, a search for “program manager” garners 1,974,989 results:
To conduct a more focused search, you’ll use LinkedIn’s filters:
In the picture below, you can see I’ve searched for program managers using the following filters:
Title: Program Manager
Degree of Connection: 2nd
Location: Greater Boston Area
This search garnered 37 results — a manageable amount of people to consider connecting with.
How to Write a Proper Invitation Message
The art of connecting with LinkedIn members is in the message you craft. There are essentially three types of messages:
- The Cold Message: This is the most difficult to write successfully. In your message, you need to provide a reason why your desired connection should join your network.
- Through a Reference: This message should garner success as long as the person you reference is well-known and trusted by your desired connection. It’s important that your reference agrees to being mentioned in your invitation message.
- Asking for an Introduction: A separate message from a trusted reference must first be sent to the intended person. The person making the introduction must be a first-degree connection with both you and the recipient.
For more information on how to send connection invitations, read “3 Proper Ways for Job Seekers to Send Invites to Potential LinkedIn Connections.”
If you are diligent about creating a great LinkedIn profile and connecting with LinkedIn members, you will be two-thirds of the way toward a great LinkedIn campaign. For the final step of your LinkedIn campaign, check out part three to learn about engaging with your network.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.