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Seven ways to expand your LinkedIn network

LinkedIn is so much more than just an on-line resume. One of its primary functions is as a digital rolodex. (Digital Natives may not know that a “rolodex” was a card file where you could arrange your contacts alphabetically and easily browse them using a knob.) Before LinkedIn, experienced professionals and senior executives often had so many contacts that they would overflow onto a second rolodex.

LinkedIn helped make the humble rolodex obsolete. It provides an easy way to search through your contacts using filters, which many of us could only have imagined when we were starting our careers in the late 1980s / early 1990s.

Having all your professional contacts – your network – in one place is convenient and advantageous. But network is not only a noun; it’s also a verb. Networking allows you to make connections with others that can be beneficial to each other’s careers. A goal of professional networking is to be in a position to ask favors of people in your network, and to help them in return. 

Professional networking isn’t just for experienced professionals. It’s key no matter what stage of your career you’re in. I’m looking at you, recent graduates and entry-level workers; if you’ve got a job, you need a network. 

When you’re not actively job searching, you may think networking isn’t worth the bother. But if you’re embarking upon a job search, networking must be a crucial part of your search strategy. Better to spend time now expanding your network as you go so that it’s primed and ready when you need it.

I can’t emphasize that enough. You are FAR more likely to get invited to interview for a job through some connection or referral than you are if all you do is upload your resume in response to job ads. So why not put some effort towards building and expanding your network along the way? After all, everyone you’re connected to knows many more people, and someone in that crowd of people might just know someone who’s looking to fill a job that has your name all over it! Stranger things have, in fact, happened.

Networking today looks a lot different than it did for our parents. LinkedIn helps to automate the process, but it does still require user input and a bit of skill.

In the Before Times, Networking Events might find you wearing a Business Suit and mingling with other people (yes, in the same room!) with a plastic cup of chardonnay in one hand and a stack of business cards in the other. Nowadays, your LinkedIn profile is your digital business card. If you set up your LinkedIn profile years ago and haven’t thought about it since, I recommend that you invest in a LinkedIn profile update (I can help!) – dust off that digital business card and get it ready to circulate.

Some of my clients are LinkedIn-reluctant. One frequent objection is the concern – or even fear – that if you update your profile, your current employer will notice and assume you are job hunting. That may have been a risk in LinkedIn’s early days, but today, most companies assume that their employees maintain a LinkedIn profile and update it from time to time. In fact, many companies even encourage their employees to interact with the company’s own content, share its job postings, and connect with other coworkers.

There are ways to keep from broadcasting changes you make to your profile, but do proceed with caution if you don’t want to tip your hand.

Now then: If you’re comfortable having an active presence on LinkedIn, here are seven ways you can use the site to expand your network and improve your odds of being noticed:

  • Comment on and like updates shared by your contacts. Engaging in this way helps remind your network that you’re still there and you’re paying attention.
  • Research target companies. Find the companies you’d like to work for. Follow their page and engage with their content. Doing so increases your visibility and can put you on the radar of corporate recruiters and hiring managers. 
  • Check your contacts to see if you have connections at any of those companies. If not, are you second-degree connected through someone else? You can ask your contacts to facilitate an introduction to their connection at your target company. Then you can direct message that person to explain how you’re always looking to connect with like-minded professionals and are a big fan of their company, etc. (Don’t flat-out ask for a job lead; “make friends” first.)
  • While you’re at it: Look up who your target companies’ hiring managers and leaders are. (Check their websites, too.) Engage with their content. Put yourself where they’ll see you.
  • Share your *own* content. You can write status updates and posts to feature your own expertise, and invite others to engage. Use hashtags so that those who are interested in the topic can more easily locate your posts.
  • Search for and follow hashtags for content you’re interested in. This can be a great way to learn who the big voices and thought leaders are in your industry and career. 
  • Of course, LinkedIn makes it easy to look for jobs and apply to them, too. When you identify a job you want to apply for, see if the hiring manager’s profile is connected with the job listing. If it is, it can’t hurt to drop them a short message expressing your enthusiasm for the job.

And that’s all just for starters! LinkedIn is really what you make of it. There’s so much more you can be doing to expand your network, and other ways to build out your profile andincrease your chances of being noticed.

If you’d like help updating your LinkedIn profile, click here to contact me, or leave a comment on this post.

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