LinkedIn to Real Life (Part 1: Making Connections)

Successful personal branding and job search requires both social media and physical networking. This blog post offers 13 connection strategies for the convergence of these networking efforts when using LinkedIn. LinkedIn to Real Life Part 1

It is easy to get lost in social media networking and forget about traditional physical networking.

However, they complement each other and require convergence.

In a previous post, Networking Convergence: When Digital Meets Physical, I shared this definition:

Networking convergence is a planned process to integrate an individual’s social media and physical networking for the greater benefit of personal branding, job search, and career.”

In this blog post I will provide specific strategies for converging physical networking with LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is for Making and Managing Connections.

“Networking on LinkedIn is a lot like riding an elevator at your favorite company ready to make your pitch at the drop of a hello, with hopes that someone important will step on and take you to the top.”

Your first likely impulse for using LinkedIn is to copy/upload the contents of your resume to your LinkedIn profile, then sit back and wait for the magic to happen.

It won’t.

Three important actions are needed, you should: (1) build your LinkedIn profile to the profile strength of an All-Star, (2) social share career relevant content so others will get to know and remember you, and (3) connect your LinkedIn to real life.

A strategy to connect your LinkedIn to real life begins by making connections (part 1), and continues with the managing of your connections (part 2).

How to Connect.

Unlike Twitter and very much like Facebook, LinkedIn is a closed network requiring a two-way connection process.  In other words, connections only occur with mutual consent.

Plus, LinkedIn goes to great lengths to protect the privacy and professionalism of their social network members by: (1) recommending that you only connect with people you know, and (2) providing obstacles and restrictions if others reject your invitations with a “Spam” or a “I don’t know” this person.

While some potential connections are fearless networking LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers) and willing to connect with anyone, others are fearful pussy cats and refuse to connect with those they do not know personally.

It is important to look at a potential connection as: (1) a cold connection lead (do not know you; no prior relationship), (2) a warm connection lead (do not know you; with prior relationship and/or mutual career interests), or (3) a hot connection lead (do know you; with prior relationship and/or mutual career interests).  Obviously, your greatest potential for a connection is with the warm and hot leads.

According to LinkedIn, the most common tools for connecting with others include:

1. Invitations.

a. You can send an Invitation to a potential connection when there is a prior relationship/experience (such as: a work colleague, education classmate, or a “we’ve done business together” work client). This requires a shared work or education experience element in your profile [warm or hot connection leads].

b. You can send an Invitation to a potential connection when you have the email of the potential connection. This is particularly relevant for someone you already know (and they know you), just met through physical networking, and/or someone with mutual career interests [warm or hot connection leads].

c. You can send an Invitation to potential connections that you find with a People Search, through People You May Know, or when using LinkedIn Mobile Apps. All you have to do is press the Connect button (may still require an email). These potential connections may know you, may have a prior relationship, or may share mutual career interests with you [cold, warm, or hot connection leads].

Warning: In some instances this Invitation method may allow you to Connect with one click using the default generic invitation rather than the opportunity to write a personalized invitation.  This is okay if it is with someone who definitely knows you. Otherwise, it could result in an “I don’t know” rejection. Thus it is always best to click through to their profile and send a personalized invitation to connect rather accidentally sending a generic invitation.

2. Introductions.

You can get Introduced to a second-degree connection through an existing first-degree connection.  While these potential connections do not know you, they do know and connect with one of your direct contacts and may have mutual career interests [warm connection leads].

3. InMail Messages.

You can use a paid InMail message to request a connection with someone who has no prior relationships/experiences with you, you do not have their email address, or you do not have a direct connection with one of your connections.  In other words, it is someone who could be an important addition to your LinkedIn network, but you have no other way to connect [warm connection leads].

Regardless of which tool or above method is used to make a connection, it is critical to avoid an “I don’t know” rejection by always using a personalized invitation with an opening explaining your recent meeting, the specifics of a prior relationship/experience, or a mutual career interest.  A recent blog post by Careerealism provides some must-use tips for writing your personalized invitation to connect with someone on LinkedIn.

“With LinkedIn connection invitations: personalize rather than generalize.”

13 LinkedIn Connection Strategies.

As is recommended by LinkedIn, you should start by connecting with the people you know.

Based on your current and past career-related work and education relationships, experiences, and career interests, you can easily identify and send personalized invitations to connect on LinkedIn.

Of course, your priorities are those potential connections that are career stakeholders that may have an influence on your personal learning, skills development, personal brand, job search, or career advancement.

Your connections strategies should include:

1. Current Contacts.

Your first effort to find and connect with people you know is through your professional or work email contacts. To quickly find them on LinkedIn, just go to LinkedIn>Connections>Add Connections and import your email contacts into LinkedIn. This should help identify many of the potential connections that you already know (career stakeholders) or do business with (work colleagues, clients, suppliers, etc.).

Advanced Tip: You should be selective with your invites and don’t automatically invite all of your email contacts.  LinkedIn allows only 3,000 invitations initiated in your lifetime, so don’t waste an invitation with your customer service contacts, etc.

Type of connection lead: hot.

Best tools for connecting: invitation/email.

2. Current & Past Work Experiences.

Think about your current and past work (full and part-time), internships (paid and non-paid), and volunteer experiences so you can add these experiences/elements to your LinkedIn profile. Then conduct an Advanced People Search>Company from these shared experiences to find those that know you and connect with them (past and present work colleagues and supervisors; past and present clients). Pay particular attention to those that know you well enough to potentially endorse or recommend you for your career-related skills and qualifications.

However, it is also important to connect with those whom you currently work with so you can learn more about their qualifications, their career history/successes, and their current thinking and interests as illustrated by their social activity.  At the same time, your work connections will learn more specifics about your personal brand, qualifications, and career ambitions.  Often, the best job and career opportunities are found within your own employer through promotions or lateral job changes.

Type of connection lead: hot.

Best tools for connecting: invitation/colleague, invitation/we’ve done business together.

3. Current & Past Education Experiences.

Next, conduct an Advanced People Search>School to identify those from your educational experiences that know you (past and present classmates and professors). More specifically, search by name to find those who could endorse or recommend you on your LinkedIn profile.

Whether realized or not, your past or present professors play an important role as a career stakeholder.  The professors that know and remember you will relish following your career successes and are often a conduit for new job opportunities coming from local businesses, recruiters, and alumni.  Therefore, it is a beneficial career move to connect and keep your personal brand “top of mind.”

Type of connection lead: hot.

Best tools for connecting: invitation/classmate, invitation/friend.

4. Friends & Family Referrals.

You should connect with family, friends, and friends of family and friends. If you believe in the theory of “six degrees of separation,” there is good possibility that a family member or friend knows someone who knows someone (and so on) at a targeted company. If you do not share a work or education experience in your LinkedIn profile, then you may need their email in order to connect.

A referral strategy is a powerful tool for the job search. The Muse provides some good advice for enlisting family in your job search.

Type of connection lead: warm, hot.

Best tools for connecting: invitation/email, invitation/friend, introduction.

5. Alumni Networking.

You should also connect with those in your school’s alumni networks or school’s LinkedIn groups. In some cases, you may find that your school has one or more alumni groups where your mutual educational experiences provide a good reason to connect. For example, my University and my Business School both have alumni groups on LinkedIn.

Since you have already connected with those from your education that you know (#3 above), the purpose of this strategy is to look within your alumni groups for potential career connections in: (1) career targeted companies, (2) those with whom you could learn from with informational interviews or as career mentors, and (3) those on career paths of professional interest. Career Rocketeer provides some excellent advice for networking with alumni.

Type of connection lead: warm.

Best tools for connecting: invitation/email, invitation/classmates, introduction.

6. Career-Focused Groups. 

Next, you should identify other LinkedIn groups with like-minded career interests, join these groups, and seek out potential connections there, too. Look for career-focused groups that are native or exclusive to LinkedIn (such as: Content Marketing Academy or Personal Branding Network), as well as national and local trade and industry membership groups that provide physical opportunities to attend meetings and network (such as: local clubs and professional organizations, trade associations, business and service organizations).

Advanced Tip: Even with the larger and native LinkedIn groups, you can conduct a Member>Search>City within the group to find members that are local.

Type of connection lead: warm, hot.

Best tools for connecting: invitation/email, invitation/education, introduction, InMail.

7. Local Career-Focused Search.

You should conduct a career-related keyword search with a local filter in LinkedIn. For example, I can go to Advanced People Search using keywords “social media” with a “located in or near” a specific zip code to find which of my current LinkedIn Connections are local, or to find new career-related connections that are local.

Type of connection lead: warm.

Best tools for connecting: invitation/email, invitation/education, introduction, InMail.

8. Career & Industry Influencers.

If familiar with important influencers in your career focus, you should seek them out on LinkedIn, too. These influencers may be those you already follow and learn from on Twitter or Google Plus, popular book authors, speakers, or bloggers in your career focus.

Since fewer people are social sharing on LinkedIn compared to other social media (such as Twitter) and the connection networks are smaller, it is often easier to get noticed and to engage and interact with these influencers on LinkedIn.  Then, if you happen to attend a conference or event where they are speaking, they may just remember you.  Also, if these influencers have 500+ connections, this is a good sign that they are willing to connect with like-minds.

Advanced Tip: As an alternative to connecting, you can choose to Follow your targeted influencer’s social shares and blog posts to add to your personal learning network (PLN).

Type of connection lead: warm.

Best tools for connecting: invitation/email, introduction, InMail.

9. Career & Industry Conference Attendees. 

If you regularly attend or plan to attend a career focused conference or any conference that your current contacts or potential new contacts may attend, it is important to connect on LinkedIn with them in advance. After registering, you may have an opportunity to obtain a list of speakers and attendees (look on conference website or just ask conference organizers) or there may be a special LinkedIn group for attendees. Since these are career like-minded people, a personal invitation explaining this could result in pre-conference connections.

As you meet others at the conference, exchange business cards and send an invitation to connect when you return to your room in the evening. Brazen Careerist best explains how to network at a conference.

Type of connection lead: warm, hot.

Best tools for connecting: invitation/email, invitation/education, introduction, InMail.

10. Targeted Potential Employers or Companies. 

Also, identify your targeted companies for potential employment, career interest, or business prospecting, and connect with their career relevant employees (such as: managers and hiring decision makers).

Even if you choose not to connect with them, you can still learn a lot about a company by reviewing their employees’ profiles and social sharing activities. An Advanced People Search can help you to identify any prior relationships, such as education or work.

Advanced Tip: Prior to a job interview or a client meeting, you should connect with those you are expected or scheduled to meet with. Then you can gather advance insight into their background (career path, past work and educational experiences) and career interests (based on their social share activity and group memberships).

Type of connection lead: warm, hot.

Best tools for connecting: invitation/email, invitation/education, introduction, InMail.

11. Other Social Media Connections.

You should also consider identifying key career-related connections from your other social media networking (such as: Twitter, Google Plus, etc.) and search by their name to find and connect with them. Ideally, you should do this with those whom you have previously engaged/interacted with on social media and are more likely to recognize your name. Give priority to those that are local and offer a greater likelihood of a physical meeting and networking.

Type of connection lead: warm, hot.

Best tools for connecting: invitation/email, invitation/friend, introduction, InMail.

12. Those Inviting You to Connect. 

With each connection request received, you should click through to review their profile and recent activity rather than blindly clicking the Accept button.

Just ask yourself these questions: (1) Do I already know this person? (2) Do I want to know this person? (3) Is this person connected with another of my connections? (4) Even if I do not know this person, do we share an education or work experience? (5) Is this person local and with other important local connections? (6) Can I learn from this person’s social sharing activity? (7) Will this person add value to my LinkedIn network and/or career?

Advanced Tip: Beware of potential connections that may only want you for your contact information (such as: phone number, email, direct messaging). If a new connection begins sending unwanted solicitations, over promotes themselves, dominates your Updates stream with excessive posting, or just generally annoys you, then you can simply remove them as a connection.  Poof, they are gone. However, they may have already harvested your contact information to continue annoying you in all the wrong places.

“With LinkedIn connections: scrutinize before you socialize.”

Type of connection lead: cold, warm, hot.

Best tools for connecting: no tools needed; just Accept or Decline.

13. Who’s Viewed Your Profile.

Anyone who has viewed your profile is a potential connection worthy of consideration. These may include: (1) those who find you through any of the above connection strategies, (2) social recruiters searching for job candidates, (3) you were recommended by LinkedIn’s People You May Know, or (4) you viewed their profile, so they reciprocated.

If not already a connection, you should evaluate their potential as a connection (see #12 above), and send a personal invitation to those that could add value to your LinkedIn network.

Type of connection lead: cold, warm, hot.

Best tools for connecting: invitation/email, introduction, InMail.

The Take-Away.

The most common use of LinkedIn as a digital resume is never enough for success with personal branding, job search, or career.

Additionally, you should converge your social media networking on LinkedIn with your physical networking.

While the strategic use of LinkedIn for networking convergence begins by connecting with people you know, it should continue with people you want to know, people who know people you want to know, and people you want to learn from.

What are your ideas or convergence strategies for connecting on LinkedIn?

Image credit: by Denny McCorkle

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Denny McCorkle

Professor of Marketing, Monfort College of Business at University of Northern Colorado
As a nationally recognized and award winning Marketing Professor in the Monfort College of Business at the University of Northern Colorado, I help students, professors, and professionals to gain a Digital Self Marketing Advantage through the use of social media marketing for personal branding, job search, skills development, career advancement, and life-long learning.