Hey Lumberjacks!  In a previous post I introduced LinkedIn, the value of using it, and offered some tips to help you set up your profile.  Now that you have created your profile (RIGHT?), on to the most important part: networking.

Networking is WHY you use LinkedIn – it’s all about building relationships and connections in a professional and purposeful way. LinkedIn is about “who you know” and turning those connections into career opportunities!

1. Make connections with your classmates and friends first

Connecting with a person on LinkedIn is the equivalent of sending a friend request on Facebook. First, make connections with family, colleagues, professors, and classmates. Who knows…your Great Aunt Jo might have a connection with a potential employer in your field.

2. Send personalized messages when connecting

When you request to connect with someone you know on LinkedIn, it allows you to personalize the message.  As I said before, connecting is the equivalent of sending a friend request on Facebook. Proper etiquette entails never requesting (in this case, connecting) somebody you do not know. Next, when you send an invitation to connect, LinkedIn adds a generic greeting like this:

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ALWAYS personalize this connection invitation. You can add something like this to make it more friendly and non-generic:

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 Check out this video that goes more in depth on the art of LinkedIn connection invitations. The creator of the video even talks about how he was able to connect with a group by reading up on the owner’s blog:

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 3. Networking at the Fall Career Fair

Okay, so shameless plug for the October 9th Career Fair at the Health and Learning Center! Even if you are not looking for a job, it is still a great networking opportunity. Come and talk to companies that you are interested in, introduce yourself, and collect business cards. Later when you get home, find them on LinkedIn! Add a personalized greeting like above to connect. If you’re planning to attend graduate school this is a great way to connect with admissions representatives and stay connected.  Side note: make sure you have a professional head shot on your profile, that way they can put a face to the name.

4. Join groups and follow companies

LinkedIn groups are a great way to meet other people with the same interests as you, find people you want to meet, and increase your visibility. This article suggests joining 50 groups (which is the maximum) and focusing on 5-10. This is one of the most important steps of networking – it is crucial in reaching out to people you want to know that can be helpful to you in your career.

You can find groups to connect with and follow companies by clicking on “Interests” and then “Groups” or “Companies.” I would suggest starting with your university network group (you can also join Career Service’s LinkedIn group to stay up to date with career advice and connect with recruiters).

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Check out this video that shows step-by-step on how to connect with groups. Professional groups are an excellent way to learn more about the career field you’re most interested in.  If you hope to get a job in social work, join a few professional groups and actively monitor and even participate in their discussion boards.  You will  be amazed by how much you’ll learn about what interests and troubles people in that field.  Added bonus? When you interview for jobs in that field you’ll be able to speak to the issues most relevant to current professionals and impress the employer.

5. Follow companies, individuals and groups that interest you.

Add professional comments to discussion boards and articles you share with your network.  Consider each post a mini-interview where you can demonstrate your professionalism, communication skills, and critical thinking skills.

6. Remember, LinkedIn is a supplemental tool, not the only one.

LinkedIn is a great way to network with people you want to know and gain connections that can help you in your career. However, do not mistake it as the only way to connect. Set up Skype sessions, phone calls, and send emails to people you interact with. It will show that you are dedicated to building professional relationships.

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