1. Look presentable
Making a good impression online is just as important as effectively presenting yourself in person. That means that your LinkedIn profile has to be complete, professional, and polished. Make sure that the words you use clearly convey your industry expertise (or enthusiasm to acquire it, if you’re still at the start of your career) and project competence and confidence.
2. Do the research
As a job seeker, you probably have a couple of companies that you’d like to work for, or at least know that you want to develop your career within a certain niche. Now identify the people who could link you to job opportunities in your target organization/field or put in a good word for you when you apply for your desired position. Do some research to find out more about these individuals. What is their career track record? Do they have a blog? Do they have any presentations or publications under their belt? What are their interests and hobbies? All this information will help you make your connections more relevant and meaningful.
3. Get on the radar
Once you’ve identified your networking target, your goal is to make them notice you. You can read their blog and leave intelligent comments to interesting posts or try to interact with them via social media (e.g., by following them on Twitter and retweeting or responding to their tweets). Another great way to find common ground is to join the same LinkedIn groups, proactively offering input on discussions. You should also follow your target companies’ LinkedIn accounts to stay informed about their news and comment on their updates. But do make sure that your interactions are professional – nobody likes a creepy stalker.
4. Make a connection
If you think you’ve gotten on your potential contact’s radar, feel free to initiate a connection. If you have a shared acquaintance, ask them to introduce you. If not, write a concise, personalized message to invite them to join your network.
Start by telling that individual how you know about them and state why you are reaching out to them. You could be seeking their specialist advice or providing an insightful comment on their current/past project offering an observation that might prove useful to their research. Or perhaps praising their work, or just plain asking a question (obviously, it has to be something interesting or intriguing, i.e., not a query answered by a simple Google search). Proceed with telling them a little bit about yourself, demonstrate your willingness to be helpful if they should require your expertise, and thank them for their time.
Keep your message short and sweet – two to three paragraphs written with confidence and sincerity should do the trick.
5. Remain courteous
Demanding favors, pressing for answers, spamming, and being rude, pushy, arrogant, or annoying will not strengthen your connection with a new acquaintance. You’ve got to build personal and professional credibility gradually, showing your contact that your relationship is beneficial for all the parties involved.
6. Don’t be a stranger
It’s not enough to acquire a new contact – you’ve got to foster and develop your relationship to get the most out of it. That means following up after they accept your invitation and keeping in touch to make sure they remember who you are.
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What networking strategies do you use? Have you ever been hired through word-of-mouth? Share your experiences in our comments section!