14 categories of people to network with on LinkedIn
Networking may seem hard on LinkedIn, but it really isn’t. LinkedIn is set up to facilitate networking among business professionals. Networking is one of the strategies I encourage all job seekers to use to find opportunities. As you increase your exposure on the platform and develop relationships, it is easier to be noticed by recruiters and hiring managers. Your professional credibility can mean opportunities coming to you from your network.
Don’t count out the power of being referred as well. Companies love referrals from their staff, and referrals tend to get more attention from hiring teams. Wouldn’t you like to bypass the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and get your information directly in front of the hiring manager? As people know you, personally and professionally, opportunities to be referred increase exponentially.
Before you start networking you need to have your profile completed. Why? Many people will be looking at it to see if you are someone that they want to have as a connection. The three areas where most people will look are:
Your profile photo. People want to see who you are. They also may be leery of connecting with anyone that does not have a profile picture, less it is a fake profile.
Complete headline. This helps people see who you are and why it would be worthwhile to connect. My advice is to always edit the default headline (<title> at <company>) to something more descriptive about your career and skills. This will make you more intriguing to potential connections.
Information in the About section. This section allows you to expand on who you are and your career. Possible connections will read it to get to know you better.
Who are good connections?
I am often asked who should one connect with on LinkedIn. Really the sky is the limit, but here are some suggestions.
Connect with work colleagues. Either past or present, these individuals already know you. They will likely connect with you readily and be invaluable in any job search. This group is the easiest to start with.
Connect with neighbors, clients, small business owners in your town. These individuals can be overlooked, but this network can be very valuable to find out what jobs are available in your area. Plus, these are people that you may be in contact with frequently, so it is nice to share your knowledge through postings in your area of expertise. You probably have their information in a contact list with your email provider. You can import contacts easily into LinkedIn.
Connect with school groups and Alumni. Connect with those that you know from an educational setting, whether high school, college or trade school. Not only connect with your fellow students (especially any that are in your field) but also with faculty and school administration.
Connect with people from volunteer organizations. Many people volunteer with community organizations and meet people through their volunteering. Sometimes the people that you meet and develop relationships with are very connected within their communities. Don’t overlook these people as a networking opportunity.
Connect with people you meet at a conference, workshop or meetup. Instead of just collecting business cards, add the connections you meet at these types of events to your LinkedIn connections. These people are generally in the same industry or at least have similar interests, and they can be a great source of knowledge for you AND may have information invaluable for your job search. You can quickly connect with members through the Qcode feature on the mobile version.
Connect with Recruiters. Recruiters are generally open to connection requests, as they are always seeking to broaden their network. A simple search can help you find recruiters in your career area.
Connect with people that interact with your posts and other network activity. If you are putting out content, you will start to see people outside of your network that will like or comment on it. Take the opportunity to add these individuals to your network. They have an interest in your knowledge, and it is great to have people in your network that appreciate your point of view. You then will also be able to see their content and potentially learn something.
Connect with people that work at your targeted companies. Do you have a place where you aspire to work? If so, start connecting with people that work there to learn more about the work they do and the company culture. Through networking, you may learn about openings before they are posted or even referred for a job! Finding the people that work at a specific company is easy.
Go to the company page on LinkedIn
Look for the link with the See all (# employees) on LinkedIn. You can see all those that LinkedIn has identified as working at the company.
Connect with people that post with hashtags that are of interest to you. This is a great way to expand your network with people that have a shared interest. LinkedIn uses hashtags to help organize posts into specific areas of interest. You can follow a hashtag to see relevant postings. When you find content that is of interest, send out an invite to the author.
Connect with “People you may know.” To help users identify potential people to network with, LinkedIn is good about making “suggestions” of others that the algorithm thinks may also be of interest to connect with. If you go to your “My Network” area, you will see the name, part of the headline and the number of mutual connections. LinkedIn may also categorize these people into similar job titles as yourself, your co-workers or alumni from schools you attended.
Ask your connections to introduce you to others. A great strategy and one that is overlooked is to ask a connection to introduce you to someone in their network. If a connection has made their network open to view by all their connections (see Settings/Privacy for this feature which allows you to change this from your connections to only you), you can see their whole network. Especially if you are interested in a particular company or type of role, having an introduction by another can be powerful to start a relationship. Don’t be shy to ask.
Connect with fellow job seekers. You can develop your own virtual support group for those, like you, who are looking for work or to change careers. Look at the hashtag #ONO (open to new opportunities) for those in the job market.
Connect to people in Groups. LinkedIn groups have had a tough time. I will admit that often they become spammy with salespeople dominating the postings. It may be worth it, though, to explore groups in your area of interest. You will find others that share your interest and can be a way to find people to expand your network. LinkedIn allows you to join up to 100 groups. There are advantages to connecting with people in shared groups (see below for different degrees of connection).
Connect with people influential in your industry. Connecting to people who are well known in your industry has many benefits, including access to any knowledge or expertise they share, as well as their network on LinkedIn. It may benefit you to connect with industry leaders, writers, executives, and researchers.
So now that you know the types of people to connect with, let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of how you do this. First, LinkedIn has a nice little handout that while marketed for students really applies to anyone who wants to network with others on LinkedIn. You can find it here. First and foremost, if you are a job seeker, do not ask for a job or inquire about job openings the first thing upon making a connection. That is considered rude. Making a connection is getting to know the other person. Only after you have developed a relationship should you make such an inquiry. Networking is about learning about each other and sharing knowledge. It is not a one-way relationship where you are looking to take from another. That is why it is so important to develop your network way before you need to tap into it for your job hunt.
LinkedIn Networking Tips and Tricks
You can have a maximum of 30,000 connections and you can only send out a maximum of 3,000 connection requests. You can get your account restricted if you send a large number of connection requests in one day.
How to connect.
Desktop version: Go to the person’s profile. Click on the Connect button. You will get a pop up that says you can customize the invitation. Always select the Add a note button.
Mobile version: Go to the person’s profile. Do not click on the Connect button. Instead click on the More button. Select Personalize invite.
You want to always send a note explaining why you want to connect with the person. This is usually because of common connections, interests or your admiration for something they wrote. Many people will not connect if there isn’t a personal note attached to the invitation.
Don’t connect through the “Connect “ button in the People you may know section. A request to connect will go out without the opportunity to add a personal note. Instead, go to their profile, read it, and “Connect” with a personal note.
What is the difference between Connect and Follow?
Follow is a one-way relationship. You can only see what the person posts in your feed. There is not an opportunity to develop a relationship.
Connect is a two-way relationship. You can see each other’s postings.
Is your contact information easily accessible? You can put information in your About section. This makes it easier for those that want to connect with you to do so outside of LinkedIn (such as a recruiter wanting to send you a direct email and not have to wait until you check your LinkedIn account or notifications for an invite).
The difference between connections:
1st-degree connections: People you're directly connected to because you've accepted their invitation to connect, or they've accepted your invitation.
2nd-degree connections: People who are connected to your 1st-degree connections. You'll see a 2nd next to their name in search results and on their profile. You can send them an invitation by clicking the Connect button on their profile page.
3rd-degree connections: People who are connected to your 2nd-degree connections. You'll see a 3rd next to their name in search results and on their profile.
If their full first and last names are displayed, you can send them an invitation by clicking Connect.
If only the first letter of their last name is displayed, clicking Connect isn't an option but you can contact them through an InMail.
Group Members: People who are considered part of your network because you're members of the same group. The Highlights section of a member profile displays the groups you’re both are in. You can contact them by sending a message on LinkedIn.
Exporting Connections. If you want to export your connections in LinkedIn to a spreadsheet program (which you should do periodically), the information on how to do this is here.
One last thing that I want to emphasize here. It is not the number of connections you have, it is the quality of the connections. Some people think that it is better to get as many connections as possible. They brag about that number. This is the wrong way to look at your network. You want to curate your network to people that are important for your professional development. Think about whether the person that you invite to your network will be someone that in one, five or ten years you would still want to know. You will get more from a smaller, nurtured network, than a large one where you do not interact at all with the vast majority of the individuals.