If you are looking to build strong professional networks while also building a professional brand as an expert in your field, and you aren’t on Linkedin…or haven’t updated your profile in a while…please do so immediately after reading this.
Through networking on LinkedIn, I have been told about new opportunities in my area of interest before they were made public, built connections with relevant local and international contacts, received up-to-date information about trending topics in my field of interest and created a professional brand that gets me noticed by my target audience….and you can do the same!
Here are 9 tips I have personally used to build a professional network on LinkedIn.
This might sound a little harsh, but…are you worth connecting with? Does your LinkedIn profile showcase your professional competence in a compelling way? I am not talking about your job title and a list of all the places you have worked, rather ensure your headline and summary clearly articulate your value proposition as a professional. For example, are you a risk analyst with 10 years experience or do you have a decade’s worth of experience in helping failing SMEs create sustainable business practices?
The LinkedIn Alumni feature is an excellent tool for building connections with people you already have something in common with. Simply type the name of your university into the LinkedIn search bar, the university page should come up, click on it.
On the university page, click on the blue tab which says “see alumni”. This takes you to a whole new page with options to search by graduation year, as well as where current alumni live, where they work and what they do. You can then filter down this information for people who are in your preferred industry, who live in Lagos and graduated about the same year as you. You can then send these people customised connection requests saying you attended the same university as they did.
This is one of the many reasons why I believe LinkedIn is a key go-to networking resource. Recently, I was on a popular international business blog and I watched a really inspiring video by a woman who lived in the United States. I googled her, sent her a Linkedin Connection request with a personal note saying:
“Hello xxx, I’m Glory and last year, I founded a career development platform for women in Nigeria called 9to5Chick. I watched a few of your XXX videos and found them very useful. Thank you for shedding light on global issues career women face. I hope it’s okay to get connected and stay in touch?.”
She accepted my request and sent me a personal note saying:
“Well thank you Glory, I’m always happy to meet another African boss lady! Congrats on 9 to 5 Chick and let me know if I can ever be helpful : ) All the best.”
Of course not everyone replies, but at least 7 out of 10 of my requests which are accompanied by a personal note receive a response.
Joining relevant and active Linkedin groups on your sector and interest areas is a great way of identifying and meeting other sector experts and building professional connections. However, don’t be a wallflower in these group. Contribute to conversations, leave comments on posts, ask questions and share your insights on other members’ posts. To find relevant groups, type in your sector or key word in your industry and use the search filter to search for groups. You can also join alumni groups.
Just like Facebook, LinkedIn sends you notifications when it’s your connection’s birthday. It also takes things a little further by telling you when they are featured in the news, change jobs, get a promotion or have a work anniversary. This is a great time to connect. It helps refresh your connection and in some cases, I have even had connections tell me about new opportunities simply by starting a conversation saying…Happy Birthday.
Networking while also creating a personal brand that demonstrates industry knowledge creates an impression of competence and expertise. Let your connections know you have your hand on the pulse when it comes to the latest news or industry happenings in your sector.
You don’t have to write a full article, but consistently posting links to news clips and adding one or two lines about your perspective or inviting the perspective of others, is a great way to demonstrate expertise and knowledge.
Either before or after I attend an event, I send speakers LinkedIn connection requests. If I do this before we meet, it is usually a great way to start a conversation. I say something like “I really enjoyed reading x article on your LinkedIn profile and I also sent you a connection request”. If I add them after we met at an event, I always send a personalised note saying what event we met at, what we discussed and that I enjoyed connecting with them.
Leading with generosity is key when building professional relationships. Send your contacts useful information on job openings, interesting articles and posts, and also make introductions to potentially helpful connections. Doing this helps you build a storehouse of social capital and goodwill.
Social media offers real potential for making new connections and staying in touch, but nothing beats face to face. Is there a new contact who seems to always have great insights on LinkedIn groups, or an old classmate that celebrated 10 years in their role? Grab a quick lunch or after work drinks!