Whether you are looking for work or not, it’s always a good idea to always be adding to your roster of business contacts. However, finding the time to constantly attend networking function and meetings can be difficult. That’s why social media can be so helpful. While Facebook and Twitter could render some contacts, LinkedIn is specifically designed for such efforts. But before you go asking every contact you come across to set you up with a job, here are some ways to build a solid list of contacts that can help further your career.
Determine what you want from your contacts.
Before even adding any new contacts, you first must decide what you want from your contacts. Are you looking for a window into a new career? Are you looking to rise up the ladder in your own industry? The answer will inform how and where you look for contacts. Adding random people without a plan is a social approach, but don’t expect to get much from those contacts.
Find contacts with commonalities.
Connecting on LinkedIn is a two-way street so unless you’re offering someone else some value by connecting with you, why would they bother? Find contacts you share some common ground with. This could mean sharing the same position in different companies, the same industry, or just similar interests. These commonalities will make it easier to connect and get the conversation going.
Let people know why you’re connecting.
As with any form of social media, it can be a little odd to be connected with a total stranger. Seeing as it is a platform for business connections, this can be all the more off putting on LinkedIn. Therefore, be sure to write a message to each new contact explaining why you are reaching out to them and why you hope to connect with them. This will not only ease the mind of your new contact but will also serve as a nice ice-breaker.
Be a presence online.
I’ve heard from many boomer-aged professionals that the only social media platform they will consider using is LinkedIn, and the others are just a waste of time. Sorry to say, but you can not afford to have that kind of stubborn outlook anymore. Social media has become such a large part of the hiring process, that having a lack of an online presence puts you at a disadvantage. When you connect with people, chance are they are going to search for you online so take that as an opportunity. Which brings us to…
Let your own voice be heard.
You should use your LinkedIn page and other social media pages as an opportunity to let your personality come through. Your contacts know you from your name, picture (yes, you do need a picture) and work experience. Allow them to find out a little more. Share your interests, your opinions and aspects of your life outside of work. This can be through status updates, articles you share, or a personal blog. You are making these contacts for professional reasons, but that doesn’t mean your personality doesn’t play into it.
Don’t be pushy.
Remember, just because someone is a contact on LinkedIn doesn’t mean they owe you anything. I’ve seen people make a contact with someone and immediate message them to meet-up and discuss any opening in their company. That is a sure-fire way to scare off any contacts. People don’t want to feel like they’re running a service just by connecting with you. Develop a relationship before even approaching the notion of them helping. And even then, don’t expect the world from them.
Take it offline.
While you don’t want to rush things by any means, it is important that your relationship with your LinkedIn contacts progresses. After corresponding for a while and developing a rapport, see if they would be interested in meeting up for coffee. That can then develop into a more frequent meetings, leading to a solid and valuable professional contact.