Your profile is ready to go. Time to turn the tables on LI and go on offense. It is not uncommon for us to meet job seekers who have a great profile, but they want to treat it a bit like Facebook and connect only with people they know. Sigh. LinkedIn is designed to grow your network, and you need to connect with people you don’t know in order to get to know them. Until you embrace the concept of making targeted connections with unknown professionals, your LinkedIn campaign will be all for naught. Let’s break this down into four tiers:
Start by connecting with former colleagues. This first tier is a friendly start, and you want to keep those embers warm anyway as these will likely be the people you turn to for professional references as well as LinkedIn recommendations.
Your second tier will be alumni from your college or university. Do a search on LinkedIn to find out who went to the same school, and your school might even have a social media tool to help you better find those who can and will be more inclined to help.
OTHERS IN YOUR INDUSTRY
Your third tier of connection should be other professionals who share your occupation and industry. This is the tier with which you will have the most in common. If you are the one IT guy or girl in a real estate or insurance office, for example, you will definitely have more in common with others in your industry that you don’t know, than those you know very well who sell homes or benefits. This 3rd tier may know of opportunities, and may even be able to pass on great leads if they themselves are gainfully employed.
Your fourth tier will in some ways be your most valuable. These are the decision-makers and hiring managers at target companies. These are the people you don’t know, but take some time to research the companies where you think you’d like to work, and connect with these influencers to get your profile in their minds before they ever post open positions. Don’t be afraid to ask for an introduction. Once you’re ready to start targeting a decision-maker, ask your connections to make an introduction to someone they’re connected to within the organization.
Engage with Your Connections on LinkedIn
When it comes to LinkedIn, time and distance do not make the heart grow fonder. As with any relationship, maintaining your LinkedIn connections takes a bit of work on your part. When initially familiarizing yourself with the site, it’s okay to be stealth, looking at what others are posting and taking note of things you like that others are doing. Eventually you will want to get active. This doesn’t mean Facebook active, posting your lunch or your kid’s award, but LinkedIn active, posting what your company or industry is doing, where you spoke or what conference you attended. Show your expertise by offering advice and opinions, but remember what your mother used to say about not being able to say anything nice…. Keep your messaging positive, forward-thinking, and relevant to your audience. Tone and timing matter. Show your connections that you are active and passionate within your field, that you see what others are doing and respect their work. As you begin to interact with your connections and comment on their posts, the same rule applies. Offer comments that add to the discussion – always asking yourself “does this comment need to be said, does it need to be said here, and does it need to be said by me?” The way you behave online is no different than how you behave in person. Endeavor to build trust and authenticity within your network, and whether or not you believe it now, you just might be surprised how much you will need that network not so far down the road.