If you have a professional profile on LinkedIn but haven’t taken the next step to build your connections, you’re missing out on a valuable job search tool. Building your professional network on LinkedIn will help you find job opportunities as well as help establish your professional online presence.
An initial way to find relevant connections is by searching your email address book or by adding connections through your present/past colleagues and classmates. LinkedIn helps you find these connections based on your profile information (make sure your profile is complete). Set a goal to invite new connections to join your network every time you visit LinkedIn.
USE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS BOOK
An initial way to build your network is to import your email address book to LinkedIn from the Add Connections link under the Network tab, and sending these people invitations to connect. Don’t just “Select All,” sending an invitation to everyone (no spamming). Select each person that it makes sense for you to invite to your network. It also gives you a list of email contacts that are not currently on LinkedIn, and you can send them an invitation to join. Again, uncheck the “Select All” box and pick and choose to invite relevant contacts.
FIND FELLOW ALUMNI
You can find classmates to connect with by clicking Find Alumni under the Network tab. The search can be filtered by school and by dates attended. More filters include where they live or work, what they do, what they studied, what their skills are, and how you are connected to them. At the bottom of the page there’s a link to help you find alumni groups for the school you are searching.
SEARCH FOR CONNECTIONS
The LinkedIn search box helps you find contacts in your industry, especially fellow veterans, to connect with. The drop-down box to the left of the search box lets you choose to search by All, People, Jobs, Companies, Groups, Universities, and your Inbox.
Select People from the list. Click the Advanced link to the right of the search box to use more filters. Search by Current Company and by Industry to find someone who works at a company you are targeting.
To find fellow veterans to connect with, search by Past Company in the advanced search filters. Click the +Add link below Past Company and type in your branch of service, or add all of them.
Once you’ve found people you’d like to add to your network, there are several ways to connect based on their degree in your network:
• If they are in your 2nd degree or in a Group with you, click the Connect button that shows on the right. If a pop-up box appears, select how you know the person and add a sentence to the default message to personalize the invitation.
• If they are in your 3rd degree and their full last name appears, click the Connect button and select how you know the person in the pop-up box, just as you did for your 2nd degree connections.
• If they are in your 3rd degree and just the first initial of their last name appears, the Connect button is not an option, but you can get introduced or send an InMail.
Get introduced by hovering over the triangle icon next to the Send InMail button and clicking Get Introduced in the drop-down list (Figure 3-4). LinkedIn will step you through the introduction process.
Send an InMail by clicking the Send InMail button. InMails are private messages that enable you to contact another LinkedIn user while protecting the recipient’s privacy. This is a paid feature that you can purchase individually (up to 10) or as part of an upgraded account.
MANAGE YOUR CONNECTIONS
Access your list of 1st degree connections by clicking the Network tab in the menu bar or by hovering over Network and clicking Connections from the drop-down box. LinkedIn lets you view your connections by Company, Tag, Location, Title, Source, and Recent Conversations.
The Tag feature helps you organize your contacts. Since you don’t know all of your LinkedIn connections personally, adding Tags will help you keep them straight.
To manage Tags, go to your list of Contacts, hover over a contact and click the Tag link that appears. In the drop-down box, click a box next to an existing tag or click Add-New-Tags and type in a new category.
Creating a Tag called Job Search will help you keep track of the people you’ve connected with for job networking and opportunities. Your connections can have more than one tag, and they won’t see the tags you assign to them.
Joining groups on LinkedIn can grow your network exponentially. Join relevant groups to connect with other veterans and individuals in your career field. Fellow group members are people you can connect with directly on LinkedIn (same as your 2nd degree network). Groups offer a wealth of knowledge and support in your job search.
CONTRIBUTE TO THE CONVERSATION
Listen, learn and contribute to group discussions. If you’re new to a group, read what others are discussing to get a feel for it. When you have something to contribute, add a comment to a discussion. Or Like a discussion to show you appreciate their post. Share relevant discussions with others on LinkedIn.
Start your own discussions, ask questions, and offer advice to establish your presence and expertise. Be sure to connect individually with people you meet in a group. Invite them to join your network and message them privately to continue the conversation.
Groups are one of the best resources of information and relevant connections that LinkedIn offers, so be sure to join them and participate as much as possible.