Since 2003 executives have been relying on LinkedIn for networking to advance their careers. As of August 2019, the site has over 610 million self-reported users and is available in over 200 countries.
Since its acquisition by Microsoft in 2016, LinkedIn has maintained its original purpose while expanding its functionality:
- It’s a social network in which people can connect with others in their industry. Your LinkedIn profile serves as a form of social proof – your activity and connections with other known players in your field add credibility. A professional headshot on your LinkedIn profile is still the gold standard in showing (not telling) that you are an executive-level player. The news feed is a great way to keep abreast of the latest trends in your industry.
- It’s still essentially a job board, where employees can search for a new position. However, enhanced features make it easier than ever to find and track openings in your areas of interest.
- Conversely, employers use it to find people to hire. LinkedIn makes most of its revenue currently as a database of talent for recruiters and sales professionals. Having a robust LinkedIn profile is an easy way to remain passively engaged in the job market.
LinkedIn is more than just a useful tool for people looking to network. In today’s professional landscape, it’s almost a necessity. Your LinkedIn profile will facilitate long-term job growth if you use the platform correctly.
Seeking out connections with people you’ve worked with or met before is a good foundation for building a LinkedIn network; those connections need to be cultivated and developed over time the old-fashioned way. It’s also worthwhile to connect with innovators in your field who you may not have met in person before. But contacting a connection seemingly “out of the blue” may come across as inauthentic and lead to a less than ideal outcome. To build strong connections, you need to put forethought into how you interact with your network to get the most value.
Four Best Practices for Using LinkedIn for Networking
These best practices for nurturing your LinkedIn connections can help you build your network beyond your existing connections and ultimately open more doors in your career.
1. Engage With Other People’s Content
One of LinkedIn’s greatest strengths as a platform is its role as a hub for professionally-focused content. Your connections will post links to stories, blog posts, and possibly content they themselves have created that relate to either their industry or the workplace in general.
Engaging with content posted by people in your network is a fantastic way to build stronger connections. There are several advantages to this approach, including:
- By commenting on a post, you can add insight into the original content. By providing your unique perspective on the content (by providing positive, encouraging feedback), you show your value and knowledge as a professional.
- You provide your connection a reminder that you’re still around without having to reach out to them via a personal message. That way, if you do reach out to them at any point, it will be less jarring to them than if there was little to no contact prior to the message.
- Your comment will show up in the feed of other people within your network, also reminding them of your presence and possibly providing them with the same valuable response you sent to the original poster.
Leaving complimentary or insightful comments on your connections’ posts is an easy way to network without appearing to try too hard to do so. After all, LinkedIn is a social network – you should use it to be social!
2. Post Your Own Relevant Content
Engaging with your connections’ content isn’t enough, however. You should also post your own content. Look for content relevant to your current role that your connections will find interesting or engaging. Information security professionals are great at this—their field evolves so quickly, they use LinkedIn as a tool to share up-to-the-minute trends and issues. You can also provide a comment on the posts of, providing your own take on the content itself.
This encourages engagement with your followers and connections. If you build a profile with regularly posted and valuable content, you’re sure to have high levels of engagement. When lots of people in your network engage with your posts, your material will then be signal-boosted into the feeds of your connections’ networks. This organically spreads your reach on the platform and may lead to more connections and potential opportunities.
Most importantly, posting good content shows your network that you have your finger on the pulse of your industry.
3. Create Your Own Content
LinkedIn also provides you with the opportunity to create your own blog posts. This is a great opportunity to establish yourself as an innovative thinker in your industry. While posting content from other outlets is highly encouraged, regularly posting blogs establishes you as an authority to your connections.
If you do ever reach out to a connection within your network about a potential job opportunity, having blog posts as writing samples built into your profile can act as a great writing sample. It showcases your business acumen as well as your ability to apply critical thinking to a problem.
There are several approaches you can take to crafting blog posts that will stand out to your connections:
- How-to. If you’ve encountered a common problem at work and applied a unique solution, perhaps you can write a blog post about how you tackled it.
- Your reaction to current events or news relevant to your industry. Here you can show your ability to process information and analyze a situation succinctly.
- Share a personal triumph. If you’ve had a big “win” in the workplace, feel free to share it. You obviously want to temper how often you write about your successes to avoid showing a lack of humility, but talking about a victory at your job and detailing the steps you took can be valuable for others.
4. Don’t Wait Until You Need a Favor to Reach Out
Has one of your connections received a promotion? Have they posted about a new job they received? Did they discuss a project they recently wrapped? If so, congratulate them. Don’t wait until you’re looking for something to make a personal connection with them. It can be as simple as liking their post, commenting, “Congratulations!” or even sending a direct message offering a compliment.
Think of it from your own perspective. Imagine not hearing from someone for a long period of time only for them to show up at your doorstep, asking for a favor or recommendation. Aren’t you more likely to respond to that person if they took the time to establish some type of connection with you prior to that?
LinkedIn for Networking Summary
Once you’ve connected with someone, your journey towards making them a potential lead for job growth has just begun. By actively engaging with them – and using the platform to showcase your abilities as a proven professional – you increase the likelihood that you’ll get more long-term value out of your connections.
By Jocelyn Clarke, Kirby Partners Executive Director