And 3 examples of invites to send.
In a recent LinkedIn Official Blog post, the author suggests you should connect “with people you know and trust.” This seems like sound advice on the surface, but it shouldn’t be followed literally. My suggestion is to take it a step further and connect with like-minded people.
By connecting with like-minded people, you get outside your comfort zone and create more possibilities for employment. Should you connect with the maximum limit of 30,000? I advise against this, as you never know with whom you’re connecting.
To its credit, the official blog suggests you first follow people to develop a relationship before you invite them to your network (make the ask). When following your desired connections, you should react to their posts and share them. Better yet, comment on their posts as well as share them.
But in order to communicate with LinkedIn members directly (without purchasing Inmails), you’ll have to connect with them.
Who to connect with
Confused? To follow someone on LinkedIn simply means you’ll see in your timeline what they post. Whereas to connect with someone means you’re in their network and can communicate with them directly. Now the question is with whom should you connect.
1. People you worked with
Your colleagues and former bosses are the first tier of your network. Treat them well, as they might be the result of you getting referred to a position—employers accept referrals from people they know and trust. By treating them well, I mean don’t ask them for a favor in your initial invite. (More about the initial invite later in the article.)
Consider the way employers prefer to hire. First, they want to fill a position with their employees, who they know; second, they take referrals from their employees, trusting their employees won’t steer them wrong; third, they ask for referrals from those outside the company; and fourth, they hire recruiters and staffing agencies.
Your job is to become an outside referral. It can be easier if you have a former colleague or boss on your side. It’s important to be able to connect the dots with your former colleagues and who they know in your desired companies. For example, someone you worked with knows the director of engineering at one of your target companies. You could ask for an introduction and a kind word from your former colleague.
2. People you meet
Have you attended networking events or industry conferences and wondered why you didn’t ask for their personal business card? I have. A better move would be asking them if you could connect with them on LinkedIn. Take out your phone, have them do the same, and send the invite immediately. Bingo, you have a connection with someone you’ve already met.
I have connected with people at business networking groups but only when I get a good feeling about them. It feels right. At this time, I would say, “It’s been great talking with you. Would you like to connect with me on LinkedIn.” If they happen to have the LinkedIn app, we can make the transaction on the spot.
You know what comes next. Of course, the follow-up. Make sure you continue the conversation by emailing or calling your new connection and suggesting a coffee date. It might be more convenient for your new connection and you to talk on the phone at a determined time. I prefer talking with new connections when I’m walking, so I’ll suggest a time when I know I’ll be strolling around my neighborhood.
3. People who are outside your personal network
For many people this is an uncomfortable connection to make. I’ve had clients say they don’t want to ask people they don’t know to join their network. My response to this is to tell them they won’t get to know valuable connections until they reach out to them. Think about the potential possibilities you could pass up by NOT connecting with the unknown?
It is important to build your network—to over 500 people—but the people in your network should be approximately 80% like-minded. What I mean by this is they should be in the same or similar occupation and industry, or the same occupation but in a different industry.
For example, an accountant in medical devices would connect with another accountant in medical devices. Not as good a fit—but a fit, nonetheless—would be an accountant in medical devices connecting with an accountant in manufacturing. To further develop their network, they would invite accountant managers and above to your network.
The benefits of creating a network of like-minded people are: first, the content you share or create will resonate with more people in your network. Second, when relationships are strongly molded, you and your connections will provide each other with leads that can result in adding more valuable people to your network or, better yet, possible job leads.
4. People who work at your target companies
You have a list of companies for which you’d like to work, right? If not, I suggest you develop one immediately. Start with 10, build it to 15, and eventually have 20 companies that you’ll research and follow. Hint: follow them on LinkedIn to gain the attention of recruiters.
The idea is not to follow companies that advertised jobs in your occupation. It’s the opposite approach. Follow companies that haven’t advertised positions. Remember, these are companies for which you want to work. By doing this, you’re being proactive in your job search.
Once you have identified your companies, you’ll connect with people at your target companies. Connect with people in departments where you want to land. If you’re a software engineer, try to connect with project managers or even VPs of those companies.
Also, consider connecting with past employees of said companies. The reason for this is obvious; you can reach out to them with questions regarding your target companies. They are more likely to answer your questions honestly.
For more explanation on being proactive using LinkedIn, read this article.
I’m often asked by my clients if they should connect with recruiters, to which I say, “Hell, yes.” Recruiters can be a great source of networking; after all, they have a pipeline of employers of which my clients are unaware.
If you are amenable to connecting with recruiters, make sure they serve your industry, particularly if you’re in a niche industry. For example, one of my clients is a linguistic specialist in high tech. She translates technical jargon from engineers to other departments.
Another consideration is a recruiter’s reputation. Do some homework and reach out to common connections of recruiters to ask what they know of a few recruiters with whom you’re interested in connecting. You can also get a sense of a recruiter’s character by reading their LinkedIn profile. Although a word-of-mouth recommendation carries more weight.
6. Your Alumni
Connecting with your alumni isn’t only for students and recent grads, although many college career advisors suggest this as a first alternative. You might be interested in a company where one or two of your alumni went. Connecting with them could give you an in or, at the very least, they could provide you with more information about a position or the company.
People who went to a small college, where they’re more likely to know their alumni, will benefit from this the most. I attended a large university where I know a small fraction of the people who attended before, during, and after I did. Nonetheless, I would reach out to my alumni because we have a common bond.
How to connect with like-minded people
Obviously you first have to find like-minded people. A great LinkedIn tool to use is All Filters. I won’t go through the process of using All Filter. This post goes into detail on how to use this feature.
Now that you know with whom you should connect, let’s look at how you connect with them. The art of connecting with LinkedIn members is in the message you craft. There are essentially three types of invites.
1. Connecting directly: the cold invite
This is the least successful way of the three options to invite someone to your LinkedIn. However, it is better than indiscriminately sending an invite with a default message. One method people use that works on me is flatter such as mentioning a specific article I wrote.
I read your article on 10 reasons why you should continue to use LinkedIn after landing a job. I’ve just landed a job and will put into practice what you write. I’d like to connect with you and hopefully alert you to new positions in my new company.
Note: you only have 300 characters with which to work, so your invite needs to be brief.
2. Using a reference in your invites
If you’re going to connect directly, you’re more likely to see success by mentioning a reference in your invite. This would be a common connection, someone who is connected with you and the LinkedIn member with whom you’d like to connect.
Once you have chosen a person who could be a reference for you, contact the person asking if you could use their name in an invite. Don’t assume your shared connection will allow you to use their name.
Once you have your reference’s permission, your message to a new connection might look like this:
You and I are both connected with Sharon Beane. She and I work for the MassHire Career Center as workshop facilitators. She strongly encouraged me to connect with you, indicating we can be of mutual assistance.
3. Asking for an introduction
This is the most proper way to connect with new people, albeit slower. This method requires asking a trusted connection to send a message to the person with whom you’d like to connect.
Note: It’s best to ask for an introduction through email because people are more likely to reply to email quicker than LinkedIn messages.
Here is a sample introduction sent via email:
I see that you’re connected with Mark L. Brown, the director of finance at ABC Company. I’m currently in transition and am very interested in a senior financial analyst role.
Although there is no advertised position at ABC, I’d like to speak with Mark about the responsibilities of a senior financial analyst role in ABC’s finance department. It is early on in the process, so I’m also scoping out the companies on my bucket list.
I’ve attached my resume for you to distribute to Mark and anyone you know who is looking for a senior financial analyst.
PS – It was great seeing our girls duke it out in last weekend’s soccer match. I hope the two teams meet in the finals.
What to do next
You’ve probably heard this multiple times; you must follow up with the people in your network. A disadvantage of having a large network—unless you spend many hours a day on LinkedIn—is the inability to follow up with your connections the proper way. The proper way, you may wonder, is sending individual messages to each person.
The quick ask
Rarely does this work if you need a favor free of charge. Think about how you would feel if you connect with someone and the next message you get from them asks for you to buy their product or, in my case, ask you to review their resume. You might feel like you need to take a shower.
The only scenario I can see this working is if you’re applying for a position which has been posted online such as LinkedIn or Indeed, and you reach out to the recruiter or hiring manager, to see if they’ve received your application. In your message you should state your interest in the position and provide three key reasons why you’re the right person for the job.
Recently this worked for a client of mine who reached out directly to the hiring manager, asking him to connect. Sure enough the hiring manager connected and my client asked if he would take a look at his résumé. My client was asked in for a round of interviews but unfortunately didn’t get the job. Small battles lead to victory.
The slow build
A much better approach is to build relationships one message at a time. I consider it to be akin to courting a person of interest. The first message is to thank the person for accepting your invite and let them know you’re willing to help them in any way you can.
The second message might include a link to an article you thought they might enjoy. In this way you’re showing value to your connections. If you get your connections to respond to your third or fourth message, now would be the time to make the “ask.” Perhaps you would like to learn more about the company at which the person works and meet them for an informational interview.
After the informational interview, be sure to continue building the relationship by again thanking the person for their time and sending a link to another article they would enjoy. You should also inquire about other people who you could add to your focused network.
This article originally appeared on Social-Hire.
Photo: Flickr, Susan_Moore_Cool