The internet has shaken up how we do business. But in many ways, old-school rules and skills still apply. Networking is one of those skills that will never go away.
Networking is crucial to learn because it opens you up to new relationships that can drive big opportunities down the road. While physical networking events like conferences, seminars, and industry mixers still hold their value, the digital age has introduced a powerful new player in the game: online platforms like LinkedIn. Here’s how to network like a professional, what to avoid, and the right strategy to build life-changing connections.
One of the best features of LinkedIn is that it allows you to add a note along with your connection invitation. This lets you introduce yourself to a potential connection and make a strong first impression, greatly increasing your chance of being connected.
LinkedIn limits your note to 300 characters, meaning you will need to be concise yet compelling. If you’re a premium user, you can message people using InMail, but upgrading to premium is not necessary for most people.
With these features available, it can be tempting to adopt a shotgun approach where you compose a generic message and send it to as many people as possible. The more people you message, the more chances of people connecting with you, right?
Well, not so much. Most people can sniff spam from miles away, and sending a generic message is a surefire way to get ignored. What you want to do instead is be authentic and personal in your intro message.
And you do that by researching people thoroughly before attempting to connect with them. Find out what you have in common, such as interests, hobbies, affiliations, or even experiences, and point them out. These are excellent conversation starters and are likely to pique their attention. Here’s an example you can follow here:
Hi Dennis, always great to see other ex-consultants from UCI here on LinkedIn! I saw you graduated in 2015 and I was just a year before you in 2014, part of the Merage school too. Let’s stay connected here on LinkedIn. Have a great day!
If you’ve been following their work, you can also express appreciation for their work or contributions. Name specific pieces of media, such as books and articles, and let them know your perspective on them and how you can help them in the future. Put yourself in their shoes and think: if I got a message from a stranger, what would I want it to say? And then write that.
You’re off to the races once a person accepts your invitation request. Gone is the 300-character limit; you can drop them a message anytime. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
LinkedIn is best used to build long and fruitful professional relationships, and you do that over the long run. So, while it may be tempting to go in for a favor immediately, showcase that you want to support them in other ways first. When you do reach out to connect over a phone call or coffee meeting, send them a note while acknowledging their busy schedule. This simple gesture demonstrates your respect for their time and the kind of person you are.
Another thing to be wary of is the number of messages you send. Instead of bombarding your connections with numerous messages, focus on sending thoughtful and relevant messages. Moreover, not everyone can respond to messages immediately. So be patient and respectful of response times, and don’t pressure your connections for a quick reply.
The best LinkedIn connections are all about providing value without expecting immediate reward. This value can take various forms, such as sharing relevant industry news, making valuable introductions, or providing resources to help others achieve their goals.
You foster goodwill and bolster your network when you freely share your knowledge and resources. This good karma usually comes back around, but even if it doesn’t, that’s okay!
It’s about nurturing these connections with genuine intent and understanding that meaningful partnerships and opportunities often take time to develop. So be patient and be in it for the long haul.
Just like most things in life, it’s never good to be desperate, especially when networking on LinkedIn. What you want is to keep everything professional and genuine.
Desperation can result in you trying questionable networking tactics, such as unsolicited spam messages or persistent requests, damaging your reputation and spoiling potential valuable connections.
To build strong and lasting relationships on LinkedIn, you must exercise patience, be authentic, and focus on mutual value. Additionally, you want to be strategic in choosing the people you want to connect with and how you write your messages.
Networking on LinkedIn is not a numbers game. It doesn’t do you any good to have hundreds of connections if none of them will engage with you and help you achieve your professional goals.
This is why it makes sense for you to limit your connection requests to people who are actually active on LinkedIn. It’s generally pretty easy to figure out when someone is not actually on LinkedIn, even if they have an existing profile. Just go to their profile, scroll down to their Activity section, and see if they’ve posted, shared, or liked anything recently.
There are no hard and fast rules here, but I would focus on people registering any activity at least once a month. These people will most likely be active on LinkedIn and receptive to your networking efforts.
If the person is inactive, but you think there’s still some value to keeping track of their work, you can “follow” them instead.
While many sales professionals flock to LinkedIn to expand their client base, the experienced ones understand that this is not the place to directly pitch a product or service, at least not right away.
LinkedIn is primarily a platform for building relationships, establishing credibility, and nurturing trust. Attempting to sell aggressively from the get-go is often an easy route to getting blocked or removed as a connection. As mentioned earlier, the name of the game is to engage in genuine conversations and that often doesn’t happen when you are just trying to sell something.
Networking on LinkedIn can open you up to several golden opportunities, depending on how you use the platform. The key thing to remember is always to be genuine, helpful, and professional. Focus on building long-term relationships, not making a sale or asking for a one-time favor.
In this case, slow and steady, more often than not, wins the race. Be the tortoise, not the hare. Good luck out there!
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