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12/07/2011How to create a targeted network on LinkedIn

To demonstrate how easy and rewarding targeted networking on LinkedIn can be, Christian Pielow of AESC outlines seven steps to get you started.

To get on the radar screen of recruitment professionals and industry leaders, every executive should be expanding their network and building relationships across their industry, function and region. With the rise of social media, building your network online is becoming as crucial as offline, in-person networking.

A great way to build your network online is using LinkedIn, the rapidly expanding professional network. However, many executives are still not taking advantage of the powerful capabilities of LinkedIn. To demonstrate how easy and rewarding targeted networking on LinkedIn can be, we offer you a step-by-step guide to help you get started. Just remember to leave old fears of online (or offline) networking in the past, and always be open to helping others!

 

executive in meeting (photo from: BlueSteps)

 

1.     Be Specific. Go to the Advanced People Search on LinkedIn. Either search by company name in the main keyword filter to target specific organisations or use individual job/industry titles. Select the industries relevant to you in the filter below and define the target geographical location. If the results returned are too general use more filters and keywords to specify your search further. The company tab on LinkedIn can also be very useful but is sometimes unreliable if employees have entered their company name incorrectly or if the company page is not active.

2.     Find connections. Browse the search results and look for executives with whom you share groups or  connections. If you have a connection or common group with someone, GROUP, 1st, 2nd or 3rd will appear next to their name. The numbers indicate the degree of connection--a direct connection (1st), a connection of a connection (2nd), or a connection of a connection of a connection (3rd). Being in their 1st or 2nd level network and sometimes when sharing a group, will allow you to message others without connecting directly.

3.     Create connections. If you do not have any shared groups or connections with target professionals, look at the groups listed on their profiles and join the ones that match your background. This is a good way to ensure you are a member of all of the most relevant groups to your industry or function, even when you're not in a job search. This also allows you to send messages and connection requests to professionals in the same group. Get active in industry forums to connect with like-minded professionals and display thought leadership.

4.     Make contact. Next, reach out to target professionals in a friendly and professional way--comment on shared groups or connections and state you would like to add them to your network. If they are open to online networking and think your profile is interesting they will accept.

5.     Build Rapport. Once connected, the idea is to build rapport as you would in any other relationship. Although this is targeted networking, do not announce you are looking for a job right away. While opportunities can, of course, arise through being more direct, it's wise to build your network with relevant contacts over the long term first. That way, in 3-6 months or so, when you are ready to move, you will have a strong contact base to enquire into for openings or just meetings for coffee to gather valuable information.

6.     Keep contacts engaged. You should add regular industry or function-focused status updates (one or two per day but once a week is also fine), posting links to interesting articles, and ideally including links to your own articles. You should also interact with status updates from your contacts in a friendly and professional manner, such as congratulating on new jobs or commenting on their posts. Your new contacts will see your interactions in the LinkedIn timeline and if they are active on LinkedIn, you will remain constantly on their radar.
In addition, if you find great industry reports or whitepapers, feel free to share with your relevant top contacts via a private message, always including friendly questions to continue to build rapport.

7.     Take it offline. When you are in an executive job search, feel free to send brief targeted messages stating that you would like to know a little more about their organisation, location or specific market, relating questions to your experience. If they are open to networking, you will have a chance to gather information and perhaps hear about opportunities they know of. And do not be afraid to take it offline--mention you are visiting the area and offer to go for coffee.

Building your network online should be an ongoing process for all senior executives and, providing you are proactive with relationship building, new opportunities will soon come your way. Just remember not to stop networking and thereby lose touch with connections once you are employed. Your online network will increasingly serve as your safety net and first port of call during career transition, and you may need it sooner than you think.

Christian Pielow is the Global Marketing Manager for the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) with demonstrated success in managing online communities and marketing programs with regional focus on a global scale. Currently working to promote executive search in the emerging markets and worldwide, senior executives should visit www.BlueSteps.com to learn more about the career management service of the AESC and contact him at cpielow@aesc.org.

 


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