Whether you’re an established industry thought leader or a job seeker climbing the executive ranks, building a robust professional network is one of the keys to achieving your career ambitions. As the world’s largest professional social network with more than 500 million members, LinkedIn puts countless potential global contacts at your fingertips.
If you’re not using LinkedIn to develop your network, you’re ignoring a highly valuable tool that can help take your career to the next level. Here are a few tips to help you effectively network and grow your following on LinkedIn.
Network outside your circle
As an executive, you’ve probably already fostered a few meaningful contacts through your business dealings, and perhaps some of those have led to a few other connections. Maybe you even have a few professional contacts outside of work. However, leveraging LinkedIn can exponentially grow your network, simply due to the sheer size of the membership base.
It’s easy to coast through life only connecting with people like ourselves. However, by expending the extra effort to increase our relationships across different circles, we gain access to new insights and creating more opportunities for ourselves by broadening the ranks of people who know, like, and respect our work.
One of the great things about LinkedIn is your ability to easily network outside your typical circle. Each time you do so, you substantially increase your exposure to new contacts. Not only that, but by connecting with people outside your circle, you open yourself to new ideas and new opportunities—both of which can bolster your career. That’s not to say you should connect with anyone and everyone. Use your judgment but don’t be too exclusive or you’ll limit your exposure.
Have a networking strategy
To build your network on LinkedIn, don’t go about it blindly. You need a plan to make the most of your efforts.
What is the objective of your networking?
Are you searching for new executive career opportunities?
Are you looking for potential clients?
Are you trying to land a Board position?
Once you’ve determined your objective, identify your target audience.
Who do you want to engage?
People who currently work at the company of your dreams?
Once you know your objective and your target audience, set networking goals.
How many people will you connect with weekly?
How many people will you directly communicate with each week?
As a general best practice, each time you connect with someone new, send a friendly introductory message and thank them for accepting your invitation. Build on your relationship from there.
Add tremendous value
As you network on LinkedIn, do remember that networking is a two-way street. Your career aspirations are, of course, important to you, but you must be willing to give a little help to get a little in return. When you make a new connection, don’t begin your relationship by asking for favours right off the bat. Offer your assistance, whether that means introducing your new contact with someone else in your network or providing a helpful article—anything to cultivate a little goodwill.
Optimise your profile
What does a fully optimised profile mean? First, it means completing the contents of your profile. One of the biggest mistakes people make on LinkedIn is creating an account and leaving their profiles blank. You’re almost better off not even having a profile if you’re going to leave yours incomplete.
A complete profile includes a professional headshot. LinkedIn in its purest form is a social network—emphasis on social. It’s a place where you can put a name to a face. Put your best foot forward with an appropriate photo. Skip images of your family pet, your kids, or you at the beach. Keep it clean and professional.
Second, an optimised profile means developing your content for a specific audience and emphasising relevant keywords and phrases. Sometimes LinkedIn users complete their profiles with no focus, inadvertently integrating irrelevant words and phrases. This waters down the impact of their content due to lack of focus. Just like your resume, your LinkedIn profile must emphasise relevant keywords and phrases.
Finally, don’t take the set-it-and-forget-it approach. Outdated content isn’t helpful to your career aspirations or your networking efforts.
Sure, you may be a busy executive, but taking a little time to remain active on LinkedIn can help you not only build or boost your reputation as a thought leader, but also open networking doors.
It can help you remain relevant and searchable by other members, recruiters, clients, prospective employers, and the like. It can also help keep your name and face popping up in other members’ newsfeeds.
Share meaningful content and advice. Join and engage in groups. Consider linking your profile with other social media accounts to further expand your reach as well.
Now that you have a few tips to help you network of networking on LinkedIn, get out there and grow your relationships! You never know what professional doors you might open with each new connection you make.