As a recent college graduate, you have undoubtedly been told that being on LinkedIn is essential to networking, finding a job, and eventually advancing your career. Basically, you’ve heard LinkedIn is the key to unlocking your professional success. While this may be a bit of an overstatement, it is true that LinkedIn can be a helpful tool and one you should definitely take advantage of as a young professional. But this brings us to the next question: As a young professional with a relatively small network, who do you connect with?
To begin, our hiring experts recommend looking at your everyday network that you’ve already established and asking those people to connect online. This can be friends, classmates, professors, former coworkers, and anyone else you know that could potentially be a good contact later down the line. As Sara, a hiring expert from Grace, points out, “You never know when you will need to reach out to your network to help you or for you to assist them. I still talk to colleagues that I have not worked with in years, and several of my job opportunities have come from networking.” 1 When asking individuals that you know personally to connect, you can add a personalized message, but it is not always necessary because they (hopefully) know who you are. If it is a person you have not talked with for some time, then it may be appropriate to include a message explaining why you want to connect.
Once you have connected with the people you know in real life, you can begin expanding your network. Ashlyn, a hiring expert from Worthington, suggests you “start reaching out to people you'd like to know, such as people who work at a company you're interested in or those in the same field as you. Make sure when connecting you send a quick note to those people letting them know why you're connecting with them.” 2 Before you send that message, however, make sure you do your homework. Look at their profile and see if you have anything in common. Whether it be where you went to school or a language you both speak, these things can make great conversation starters and will show you really looked through their profile. When connecting with individuals that you do not know in real life, LinkedIn offers tools that can make it less awkward. By checking the ‘How You Are Connected’ tool, you can see if you have any mutual connections. If you do, you can ask that person to introduce you, which usually increases the chance that the person you do not know will accept your invitation. In addition, LinkedIn allows you to follow companies and groups that you are interested in. It is becoming more and more common for companies to post job openings on LinkedIn, so if there is a company you would like to work at, you should definitely follow them!
The most important thing to remember is that your LinkedIn, like any other social media profile, should be constantly updated. Amy, a hiring expert from Textron, says: “As you continue to network in person, keep in mind that you can “connect” with individuals on LinkedIn after meeting them. This can help grow your network and continue building professional connections that could lead to opportunities later on.”3
If you do this, your network will be impressive in no time!