While the LinkedIn platform is a great way to build your online presence, market your skills and learn from others (in the military or civilian sector), there's more to it than just setting up a profile and expecting opportunities to flood toward you. LinkedIn -- the premiere business-related social network -- is changing the way we interact and network on the platform, giving priority and importance to valuable and engaging conversations between users. These insights will assist you in networking successfully on LinkedIn.
1. The New Way to Network: Meaningful Comments
Although sending connection requests is still the primary way of building your network on LinkedIn, experts recommend spending about 15 minutes a day commenting on other people's posts.
The reasoning behind this strategy is that by adding meaningful comments to other people's posts, you engage in a conversation with the author of the post, along with others in their network -- bringing together people with similar interests and opening the possibility of generating new connections.
For example, if I'm following a thought leader in my industry, and they post about a topic that's related to my profession, I can add a meaningful comment to their post -- showing my skills and knowledge -- and contribute to the conversation. From my comment, most likely the author of the post will reply, and some of their followers might, too. This gives me more visibility and reach, and can start an engaging conversation.
Then, I can see who engaged with my comment, and if I spot someone I'd be interested in networking with, I can follow up with a connection request and a personalized message. One response to a comment on a post can be a great conversation starter when making a new connection.
Start this as an intentional habit to nurture and create new quality relationships.
2. Always Personalize Connection Requests
LinkedIn is not Facebook, where you invite someone to connect with you and then you're both "friends." LinkedIn is a tool to socialize, network and engage with other professionals.
When you log in to your LinkedIn account at the top of your home feed, you'll see a section called My Network. In this section, you'll see recommendations of other professionals you might know, or you might want to connect with. When you see someone with whom you would like to network, and you don't personally know them yet, make sure you include a personalized message with your request.
LinkedIn research shows that sending a personalized message increases your response rate by 30%.
Think about it this way: You wouldn't go to a networking event and ask somebody if they want to be in your network before properly introducing yourself and letting them know why you think you will both have a beneficial networking relationship. Then why would it be OK to do this online? Online or in person, we are humans. And humans connect with other humans. Add a personalized message, mentioning why you'd like to connect and introduce yourself. For example:
- Do you share common work experience and want to learn about their career?
- Did you serve in the same branch, deploy to the same area or work the same type of job in the military?
- Do you see a potential business collaboration or opportunity?
3. Don't Initially Ask for Favors or Endorsements
Just because someone accepted your connection request doesn't mean you are lifelong friends. First, you'll need to establish a win-win relationship.
Nurture your networking relationships by offering value to them. Share articles or interviews that might be interesting to them, offer a recommendation on LinkedIn if you know the person or make an introduction to another professional, etc., before asking if they can refer you or for other favors.
LinkedIn is a powerful, fun and informative tool for your career toolkit. Use it right, and opportunities will flow.
The author of "Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty" (2020) and "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition" (2014), Lida Citroën is a keynote speaker and presenter, executive coach, popular TEDx speaker and instructor of multiple courses on LinkedIn Learning. She regularly presents workshops on personal branding, executive presence, leadership communication and reputation risk management.
A contributing writer for Military.com, Lida is a passionate supporter of the military, volunteering her time to help veterans transition to civilian careers and assist employers who seek to hire military talent. She regularly speaks at conferences, corporate meetings and events focused on military transition.
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