I recently had the privilege of speaking to a college class about knowledge management. As these students begin exploring career avenues, one inquired about LinkedIn and whether it is truly an effective method to connect with people. Without hesitation, I endorsed LinkedIn. After all, I had connected with colleagues, mentees, and mentors via the professional networking site. However, these students were actually asking about connecting with those whom you do not know as well. If you connect to a recruiter on LinkedIn, will they actually interact with you? Or are they using LinkedIn as more of a “push” to promote their company and related opportunities? Having recently been in a job search, I was impressed – no enthused – by the level of connection I accomplished via LinkedIn. That six degrees of separation theory that states everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, seems to be true. However, it takes courage to extend yourself and initiate that connection. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it takes courage to click. It’s true that the person may ignore you, but as the worst case scenario, it also means that you have nothing to lose. What if, instead of being dismissed, that corporate recruiter, fellow alumnus, former professor, or admired colleague accepts your invitation and helps you along your career path? With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you be more courageous in your clicking:
1. Everyone has to start somewhere – This means that the powerful C-level executive; innovative entrepreneur; or sought-after speaker can relate to your current position. It is also intriguing to review LinkedIn profiles and see the progression of someone’s career as well as interesting commonalities. Don’t bombard the person, just see what you can learn by having visibility to their profile. Keep any messages brief and courteous.
2. Have information to trade – In considering a LinkedIn request, the person needs to have an understanding of your background. Strut your stuff! Be sure to develop a fairly robust LinkedIn page before trying to connect with others. The more information you post, the more commonalities your “guest” will find, and the more likely you are to sustain a relationship. A photo is an absolute must. Providing a visual image translates to your invitee viewing you as a real person and not just a digital apparition.
3. Don’t hide your job search – If you are open to new opportunities, be sure to indicate that in your profile. The only exception is if you are connected with a lot of current coworkers and don’t wish to “out” yourself on the job front prematurely. In that case, you can make more discreet connections, but explain in any initial messages that you are exploring new opportunities.
4.State your business – If you connect with a recruiter because you are interested in a specific job…say so! If you are trying to connect with those who currently work in your next position of interest…say so! If you have a common area of expertise or attended the same conference or course – state that explicitly. Otherwise, you force your intended network target to hunt for relevance regarding the connection. The onus is on you, not them, to explain your mutual interest.
I hope these tips were helpful…now get out there and click!