The Ultimate LinkedIn Guide, Part 2: How to Optimize Your Network

In Part 1, we looked at a checklist you can use to optimize your LinkedIn profile. This post will address optimizing your LinkedIn network; how to connect, with whom to connect, and connecting etiquette.

linkedin-alone

As we address the three stages of optimizing your network, check off the ones you feel you are succeeding at.

Why Connecting with LinkedIn Members is Important

It’s not evident to enough people that the foundation LinkedIn is built on is making connections and nurturing relationships. Yes, creating a strong profile is important, as is engaging with others (which we’ll address in part 3); but building your LinkedIn network is essential.

There are approximately 560 million LinkedIn users worldwide. You are allowed to connect with 30,000 LinkedIn members. Am I suggesting that you build you network to 30,000 people? No. What I am suggesting is that you reach out to an amount of people you’re comfortable with. Most important is that you reach out to the right people.

1. How NOT to Connect

The number one rule when connecting with LinkedIn members is to send a personalized invitation. There is no deviating from this rule. To click “Send now” lacks creativity and is lazy. Instead, always choose “Add a note.”

Invite box

We’ll get into writing the proper invitation note later in the post. Let’s first look at the improper ways of connecting with LinkedIn members.

The following ways to connect will not give you the opportunity to send a personalized invitation; rather it will simply state your name and give the recipient of your invitation the option to Ignore or Accept (see below). When I receive invites like these, I click “Ignore” with no remorse.

Invite without message

Number one on the list of connecting improperly is through the feature, “Your contact import is ready” and then choosing to send mass invites to your email contacts. You’ll find this option under “My Network” on the top navigation bar.

Connecting through email

Second on the list is, “People you may know.” This option is also under “My network.” When you click Connect, your invite goes straight through to the recipient. No chance to write a personal invitation.

People you may know

Finally is connecting with someone on your mobile app by simply hitting the connect button. This, like the aforementioned ways to connect will send along the default message.

2. The Correct Ways to Connect

Connecting correctly means taking the time to read a potential connection’s LinkedIn profile, and then writing a personalized invitation. Following is an example of a personalized invite.

Personalized invite

You can connect with second and third degree contacts. For third degree contacts, LinkedIn hides the connect request under the three horizontal boxes beside the message box. (See below.)

Connecting with 3rd degrees

Contrary to what many believe, you can connect with the LinkedIn mobile app and still send a personalized invite. It’s tempting to simply click “Connect,” but open the person’s profile first and then select the drop-down box (seen below).

phone-invite

3. With Whom to Connect

Your LinkedIn network is your life blood. Without a strong network of people, you will not be successful on LinkedIn. If you are weary of reaching out to people you don’t know, you’ll have to get over it. I tell my clients that the only way they’ll get to know people is by inviting them to their network, or vise versa.

How Many is Enough?

LinkedIn members have opinions on how many people should be in one’s network. Some believe a smaller, more focused network is better; whereas others believe the more the better. How many people you have in your network is your prerogative.

Note: If you have less than 400 connections, you might not be taken seriously by some recruiters.

Regardless of how many people you would like to connect with, there are tiers of people you will want to approach. In the pyramid below the more important or relevant people ascend from the bottom to the top.

pyramid of connections 2

1st tier: Your former colleagues and supervisors, as well as vendors, partners, etc. Connecting with these people first makes the most sense, as they know your work and can vouch for you.

2nd tier: Same occupation, same industry. As an example, you’re an accountant in the manufacturing industry. You will search for other accountants in your industry.

3rd tier: Same occupation but different industry. They have less in common with you, but can also be of assistance. An accountant in the information technology industry may know accountants in manufacturing, and therefore can introduce you to them.

4th tier: Recruiters are an important group of people for many job seekers. I always suggest to my clients that they reach out to recruiters, as they have a pipeline of employers job seekers are unaware of.

5th tier: Target companies. People at your target companies are your quickest way to get to know important employees who work for companies for which you’d like to work. Try to connect with people at your level or a someone who might supervise you.

6th tier: Your alumni can be beneficial to you because of the bond you share. This tier of people is particularly helpful to post grads entering the workforce who need connections to certain companies.

4. Finding Potential Connections

LinkedIn is a powerful database of professionals throughout the world. Finding people will not be difficult if you know how to use LinkedIn’s features. The most obvious way to look for someone by occupation is to use “Search.” A search for Program Manager garners 1,974,989 people. (See below.)

 

People search, program manager

However, to conduct a more focused search, you’ll use “All Filters.

All Filters

From the diagram below, you can see I’ve searched for program managers using the following filters:

  • Title: Program Manager
  • Degree of Connection: 2nd
  • Location: Greater Boston Area
  • Company: IBM

search for program manager

This garnered 37 results to match the criteria. This is a manageable amount of people to consider connecting with.

5. How to Write Proper Invite Messages

The art of connecting with LinkedIn members is in the message you craft. There are essentially three types of messages:

The cold message: This is the most difficult to write successfully. In your message you need to provide a reason why your desired connection should join your network.

Using a reference: This message should garner success as long as the person you reference is well known and trusted by your desired connection. It’s important that your reference agrees to being mentioned in your invite message.

Asking for an introduction. A separate message, or email, from a trusted reference must be sent to the intended person. The person making the introduction must be a first degree connection with you and the recipient.

For the full article on how to send connection invites, read 3 Proper Ways for Job Seekers to Send Invites to Potential LinkedIn Connections

Read part 3 of this series.


 

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