LinkedIn Networking 101

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When you’re applying for jobs, it may feel like you aren’t getting any responses. However, just submitting a resume and cover letter isn’t likely to immediately land you a job. 85% of jobs are filled through networking alone, meaning that you’ll have your best chance at getting the gig when you engage in networking.

But, what is networking? Well, although it sounds technical, networking is simply making a personal, yet professional, connection. Whether it’s with professors, potential employers, or your fellow interns, networking is just another name for a professional friendship. The best place online to network is still LinkedIn, and no it’s not just a social network for Boomers anymore. 

However, going in blind can cause students to make a lot of mistakes, costing valuable connections. Let’s discuss how to build an initial profile in order to start networking on LinkedIn, as well as how to maintain both in the long run. 

Building Your LinkedIn Profile

First of all, you need a quality profile. Although LinkedIn is technically a social media network, you can’t get away with having a blank profile like other sites. Think of your profile as an online resume (which it can be often used for). But unlike those 1-page resumes you probably have on your computer, LinkedIn profiles allow you  to express the totality of your career and link to the businesses you’ve worked with. Therefore, be thorough when inputting your details. 

From a professional photo, past employment history, skills, education, and more, put in as much information as you can. Luckily, LinkedIn provides a “profile completion bar” so aim to get that bar to 100%. That way, your profile can get noticed more by recruiters. On a similar note, make sure to showcase your availability by implementing the #OpenToWork function, as well as showcasing services you might be able to provide. 

Now you’re ready to start building your initial connections. If you just joined LinkedIn, you may notice that a lot of profiles that you want to connect to seem “locked.” In order to bypass this, take initiative and search for people you know, like professors, classmates, or fellow employees. If you don’t know where to start, LinkedIn has a “People You May Know” section so search through those profiles for possible connections. 

LinkedIn connections build on each other, so as your network expands, you have the ability to add exponentially more contacts. It takes around 500 connections to appear established in your industry, so try to add as many as you can. However, this doesn’t mean you should add people randomly. After all, these are the people you will ultimately network with, so connect with people who can provide valuable industry insights or future job opportunities. 

Building a Network

Although you may have added people, that’s only the beginning of the networking process. From here, you need to build a genuine relationship with the people you are connected with. The best way to do this is to be noticed. Join various groups, follow companies, start commenting meaningfully on people’s posts. The main thing is that your name shouldn't be unfamiliar to someone you want to message.

Once you have done these initial steps, then you can start messaging connections. However, don’t try and sell yourself. No one builds a friendship off a sale, so how can you expect networking to be the same? If you have truly done all of the prior steps, then you might know of mutual interests or recent industry innovations that can be a good conversation starter. Start from there and ask for a short 15-30 minute virtual “coffee chat” where you can discuss these topics further. Once a conversation starts, at the end, you can mention how you’re looking for a job at the place your connection is working. 

Even if you’ve found a job, or you’re just not looking for one currently, it doesn’t mean that your networking should stop. The best connections are built long term, and if you’re scrambling for connections before a deadline, it can prevent you from building strong networks. Be patient and take time and effort with your relationships, because every connection can be useful, even in a future job search. 

Becoming a LinkedIn Rockstar

Although you might have done everything right, from adding various connections to filling out your profile, it’s still possible that you might not get any response on your messages. And that’s okay! LinkedIn is ever-changing, just like other social media platforms, and there are various things you can do to improve your profile.

For one, you can become a LinkedIn Creator. This function transforms your profile from a pseudo-resume to a regular social media profile page. You can implement hashtags, publish posts, and “get discovered” as a suggested creator. In this mode, your primary focus will be your follower count, not your connections, so it can be useful for users who feel more confident in the social aspect on LinkedIn. Your LinkedIn experience would then focus on interacting with your followers through leaving comments or liking posts to increase engagement. Just like a quick scroll on Instagram during a work break, even just 10 minutes a day of active interactions on LinkedIn can be enough to get noticed by recruiters and get you in-the-know for new opportunities. 

You can also join LinkedIn Premium, where for a certain amount per month, you can see who exactly viewed your profile. You also have the ability to figure out the statistics of other job applicants and send more InMails. Although the service is paid, Prime Student offers free access to the service as long as you are a member, so make sure to apply. Even if you don’t want to pay for Prime, you get six months of free access to both with an initial sign-up, which is more than enough to take advantage of all the extra services available.  

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