Building Your Network In A Virtual World
Your network is priceless when it comes to navigating challenges and growing your career. That’s why almost 80% of professionals consider networking to be important to new job opportunities and career success.
While the pandemic has put traditional in-person networking opportunities like coffee meetings or networking events on hold, you can still thoughtfully build and maintain your professional relationships virtually via LinkedIn.
Here are some best practices, and insights directly from members like you, to consider when looking to grow your network online.
It’s Not a Numbers Game
Who is in your network is more important than how many connections you have so you want to be thoughtful about who you reach out to with connection requests.
We recommend focusing on people you know and trust -- like current and former colleagues, friends and family -- rather than sending requests to people who you don’t know. Members tell us they don’t like getting connection requests from people they don’t know and often will ignore these invitations or mark them as spam. They also don’t like receiving requests with little or no context. If there’s someone you don’t know, but would like to connect with, check out our tips below on how to establish a relationship before sending a connection request.
You can learn more about who to reach out to in this Fast Company piece. The “People You May Know“ feature on Linkedin suggests LinkedIn members for you to connect with based on where you’ve worked, studied, and your contact list.
If your job requires reaching potential buyers or candidates, we recommend using our Sales Navigator or Talent Solutions tools which are specifically designed to help you reach the right kind of prospects and candidates.
Here are a few tips to build a strong professional network.
1. Identify Commonalities When Sending a Connection Request
When reaching out to connect with someone, share a personalized message telling the person why you would like to connect. If it’s someone you haven’t been in touch with in a while, mention a detail to jog that person’s memory for how you met, reinforce a mutual interest and kickstart a conversation.
Another way to give your connection request context is to start a dialog via the Feed so you are top of mind when you do reach out. Follow folks you might want to connect with; you’ll see all of their posts and updates. You can comment on the content they post and start a conversation that way. After having a discussion, you can send a connection request with a brief note to build this relationship further.
2. Lean On Your Network for Introductions
We all depend on introductions throughout our professional lives - it’s what makes our networks so valuable.
On LinkedIn, you can reach out to any of your connections and ask them if they’d be able to introduce you to someone they know within their network (i.e. your second degree connections). Be sure to set the context on why you’re interested in meeting that person so your connection can better understand why you’re asking for an introduction. Who knows? They may even come back to you with ideas on other people they’d like to introduce you to!
And be sure to return the favor. Thank your contact for taking the time to make an introduction for you and offer to do the same in the future.
3. Don’t Lose Momentum
Adding a contact on LinkedIn is just the beginning of your professional relationship. Like everything that grows, your relationships should be nurtured over time.
Share an article you think may be of interest to spark a new conversation, or connect a few of your contacts with similar interests via a group message to start a conversation.
You can also now easily switch to a video call by adding video meeting links directly into a chat on LinkedIn. While a virtual coffee date still feels different than an in-person meeting, face-to-face time can be a great way to continue building relationships!
And remember, LinkedIn connections are just one way you can engage with other people. You can join Groups and virtual events to meet people, and send InMails and message requests to start conversations with people outside your network.
Your professional network can make a world of a difference in your professional life. Remember though, it’s not a numbers game. Be selective and connect to the people that are really a reflection of your professional goals. By doing this, you will create a network that is useful and effective in supporting your career goals.