LinkedIn is a valuable resource for job seekers. However, much of your success on the site depends on effectively reaching out to people you don’t know. Not sure where to begin? Here are 10 tips to get you started:
Tip #1: Update Your Profile First
If you have decided to leverage LinkedIn to expand your professional network during the job search, then start by getting your profile up to date. If you are effective at attracting attention from potential contacts and even employers, you want to be sure what they are going to see is recent, complete, and professional.
Be sure to take advantage of the various profile features on the platform to showcase your latest information. If you are currently unemployed, make it clear that you are looking for the next great fit to bring your talents, drive, and passion to the table in your headline so it will get noticed by those who visit your page. Include a recent photograph and update your skills. Your education and experience sections should be complete, accurate, and up to date.
In addition, you have 2,000 words to make a top notch first impression in the summary section. Consider this your online “elevator pitch.” It should tell your career story, that is, your professional trajectory. And, it should convey enthusiasm for the kinds of work you are seeking.
Tip #2: Who to Approach and How to Find Them
There are several ways to find people that may be helpful in your job search on LinkedIn. Here are a few common ways to find potential contacts:
People You May Know: Chances are you have a treasure trove of contacts already connected on LinkedIn. You can find very helpful suggestions under the “People You May Know” feature on the “My Network” page. The more complete your profile, the better these suggestions will be.
Recruiters: Quickly find recruiters by typing the word “recruiter” along with the geographical area, job sector, or company you are interested in. When you send them a message to connect, be sure to include a few sentences about the kinds of work you are interested in and your top relevant qualifications.
Groups: Using the search tool, look for groups that:
- you are a member of (such as your fraternity);
- are centered on an area related to your professional expertise (such as project management); or
- are relevant to your job sector (such as civil engineering).
It is advisable to participate in the group discussions to get the lay of the land before approaching members of the group individually.
Company Search: If you already have a company in mind, then one place to start is to search for the company and identify if you may already know someone that works there. If so, they may be willing to recommend you to the hiring manager using the referral tool. This is a great way to get on the radar for a future job opening.
Tip #3: It’s Not Just a Numbers Game
When you approach someone you have not met in person it is called a “cold contact.” As anyone familiar with sales can tell you, cold contacts can be tricky. As you might imagine, not everyone is open to being approached by someone they don’t know. It is important to keep in mind that even if you have a great approach, it might not always work. In fact, no matter how thoughtful your approach, expect that as many as half of your cold contacts will simply ignore you.
This leads some people to resort to sending generic messages, cutting and pasting the same introduction over and over. Unfortunately, this is part of why cold contacts often get ignored. And, the response rates for such messages are very poor. Worse, you run the risk of really blowing your opportunity to make a strong first impression with someone who may well have an important lead or connection that could help with your job search.
Instead, personalize your approach using the techniques that follow.
Tip #4: Identify Common Ground and Mention It in Your Approach
It is time to do a little bit of research. Spend some time reading their profile and any posts they may have shared. Learn a little bit about the company they work for and the special projects they may be working on. Look for things that you have in common such as a shared passion for the work, similar perspectives on how to solve a problem, or the same specialized area of expertise.
It really isn’t enough to be born in the same state or sharing an alma mater. First, these categories are too broad, and second, they are not related to career issues, the focus of most of the activity on LinkedIn.
Once you have identified some professional common ground, you can mention this in your approach. This shows the person that you have taken your time to really learn something about them before wasting their time with another incoming message. In addition, it can help pique their curiosity to learn more about you.
Tip #5: Leverage Common Contacts
Before you make an approach, look to see if you share any professional connections. This is particularly important if you are attempting to reach out to someone that is notable in your field who may receive a great deal of cold contact requests. If you happen to know someone they know, you may be able to get an introduction which will get your foot in the door.
Tip #6: Have a Goal in Mind and Include a Call to Action
Unless you have met someone in person, it isn’t enough to just connect with your cold contacts. The point of reaching out should include a reason for wanting to make a connection.
It may be tempting to leave your cold contact message open ended. After all, you don’t want to come off as pushy. However, it’s a mistake. Instead, include a call to action as the closing sentence of your message in order to prompt them to respond in some way.
If your goal is to try to connect with someone that may be able to provide you with a recommendation for a specific job, it is best to be upfront about that. You can express that you think you would be a strong fit, name your top qualifications, and ask them if they can make time for a quick phone call to discuss it.
Tip #7: Look for Ways to Engage Off Site
Let’s face it, if your only interaction with someone is through LinkedIn, the odds aren’t very good that you will be first on their mind when an opportunity comes up. Such connections are considered very weak. So, if you have identified someone you would genuinely like to strengthen your professional relationship with, it is time to look for ways to make your engagement more concrete.
This can take many forms. For example, you may notice that this person will be speaking at an upcoming event in your town. You could invite them to lunch or coffee to get to know them better. Or, you may want to offer to collaborate online on an upcoming article that you plan to publish. In other cases, you can try to book a phone call to discuss a common interest.
Tip #8: Engage in Less Direct Ways First
This tip is particularly helpful if you plan on approaching someone that has some weight in your industry. If they are active on LinkedIn, they may regularly share posts or links to other articles. By engaging on their posts with meaningful comments and insights, you can establish some credibility prior to your approach.
You may also learn about their activity on another platform. For example, they may publish content on YouTube or produce a weekly podcast. Engaging offsite, or mentioning that content in your approach, can warm up your initial contact as well as provide meaningful common ground.
Tip #9: Track Your Progress
If you are serious about investing time in expanding your professional network on LinkedIn through cold contacts, it is important to stay organized and track your efforts. Consider using a spreadsheet so that you can include the name, date, message, and result for each of your cold contacts.
Use this information to find out which approaches are working, and which aren’t. This will really help you spend your time efficiently going forward. In addition, it will help you avoid duplicate approaches and let you know when enough time has passed to make a new, second approach.
Tip #10: Wait an Appropriate Amount of Time, Then Try Again
Just because you did not get a response on your first attempt, doesn’t mean you can’t try again. Key to this is that you wait an appropriate amount of time before you make another attempt to connect. A month is generally enough.
In addition, be sure to craft a new approach; don’t just send the same message again. If it didn’t work the first time, it is very unlikely to work on the second try.
Bonus Tip: Stay Active on LinkedIn Even After You Land Your Next Job
Since you have invested some time in getting active on LinkedIn, it is a good idea to stay active even after you get a job. This way you can continue to expand your network and keep relationships strong so that when you are ready for the next opportunity your contacts will be ready to help you get a foot in the door for your dream job.