LinkedIn is the most widely used professional networking site with over 600 million members worldwide. Professionals and organizations are using LinkedIn for business development, marketing, recruitment/job search and more. A lot of planning and thought should go into optimizing your profile, network and presence. There are 3 main areas to focus on to make LinkedIn work for you. The first one is having a solid profile – this includes your headline, photo, about section, career history and skills. The second one is the size of your network, ideally you should aim for 500 connections. The third area to pay attention to is the focus of this article, the quality of your network.
The quality of your network is important whether you’re currently looking for a new role, using LinkedIn for business development or simply trying to grow your professional network. Optimize the quality of your network by doing the following:
1) Connect with professionals who are in industries, organizations and roles that you are interested in. Even if that organization is not currently hiring, request to add hiring managers, human resources professionals and others in a similar role to your network. Then, if a role does become available at that company in the future, and if you apply and those professionals look at your profile, they will see that you’re in their network. When they see you are in their network it will likely reduce their ambiguity about you as a candidate and may make them more likely to consider you. While you’re doing the research about these organizations, you should adjust your privacy settings in LinkedIn so others don’t know you are looking at their profiles. It’s not that there is something wrong with looking at others’ profiles. Rather, you don’t want it to be obvious that you are looking at so many professionals’ profiles from the same organization. You can send out some automatic requests to connect, but if you are keenly interested in a role in that organization, it’s best to send a personalized note.
Always stick to one ‘ask’ per interaction, so your initial ‘ask’ is simply the request to connect. Then if they accept the request to connect, you can consider asking about follow-up steps for a role you’ve applied to, or send them some questions about their organization – reserve these practices for roles and organizations that you are very interested in. Even if you’re not in job search mode, it is a best practice to be attentive to the size and scope of your network. You are part of a workforce that is continually changing and now more than ever, professionals will have multiple employers throughout their careers, so it’s best to be attentive to the quality of your network regularly. It is very likely that your professional network will play some role in the process of securing your next opportunity. That could be through the power of a recommendation or endorsement, via an introduction from a common connection or because the hiring authority notices that you are in a shared network.
2) Join groups that are relevant to what you do. It’s best to pick groups that are in your region/country and specific to your area of focus. When you’re researching the group, look at the size, region and review some of their activities. You can do a search for groups using keywords. Another good way to find relevant groups is to look at the profiles of professionals related to what you do and see what groups they are members of, and then request to join those relevant groups. Many recruiters and hiring managers utilize LinkedIn to conduct passive candidate searches. You’ll be more likely to turn up in their search results if you’re in their network or in a shared group. If you’re not interested in receiving notifications about activities in the groups, you can still enjoy the benefit of the effect on your network if you shut off those notifications in the ‘group settings’.
3) The third way to optimize the quality of your network is to engage with them. The best way to do this on LinkedIn is through activity in the newsfeed. Always be protective of your career brand when you’re active in the newsfeed. Best to pause and think before you post, comment, like or share. Ask yourself, ‘is this related to what I do professionally’? If you’re simply liking someone’s article or post, ask yourself if it is in line with how you want to portray yourself. In most cases, it’s best to stay away from contentious topics. You can comment or like a wide variety of topics, but when it comes to posting and sharing, it’s important to keep it relatively homogeneous to what you do professionally. Engaging with your network helps improve the quality of your network by enhancing your professional career brand with those individuals and by staying top of mind. Aim to post material once per week. You can like, comment or share more regularly than that. Be mindful of your sources, the quality of the articles you post are a direct reflection of your career brand and will leave an impression with your network.
Keep in mind that your profile and presence on LinkedIn are organic. You should review your profile, network and activity in the newsfeed regularly. Put an alert in your calendar to review your LinkedIn presence on a weekly basis. Always keep your professional career brand in mind when you make adjustments to your profile, additions to your network and when you’re active in the newsfeed. Grow your network with professionals and groups in the field you’re interested in and increase your activity in the newsfeed in a way that is consistent with that related career brand. By doing so, you will be optimizing your LinkedIn Network and ensuring that LinkedIn is working for you.
Sari Friedman is a Human Resources Consultant and Career Coach who specializes in offering high-quality support and guidance. Sari acts as a true partner for organizations seeking HR expertise, and for individuals seeking to create and achieve career goals.