Networking can feel like a bit of a minefield, especially online. Thankfully, Hays’ Jane McNeill is here to share her top tips.
Not so long ago, networking used to be fairly straightforward. It simply involved navigating a crowded room, business card in hand, while scoping out the best people to speak to and then attempting to start a meaningful conversation.
Of course, this face-to-face networking is still important, and always will be, but there’s also a new kid in town.
The rise of online networks has created real, focused, commercial opportunities to network – but there are rules to this new world, particularly when it comes to leveraging your online connections.
Maximise your presence on LinkedIn
While networking events remain important, most networks are grown today on LinkedIn. But, before you start to network online, start with the basics: optimise your LinkedIn profile.
Add keywords to your headline, summary and experience sections as they are searchable by others; add your LinkedIn URL to your email signature; review LinkedIn’s suggested connections regularly; and join relevant LinkedIn groups. Be proactive in writing recommendations and endorsing skills where appropriate.
If you’re wondering if it matters how many relevant first-degree connections you have, the answer is yes, because second- and third-degree connections mean you can be one connection away from potentially millions of people. The key is to make sure your connections are relevant – quality not quantity is vital when building your network.
Get an introduction
This doesn’t mean you can automatically interact with your second- and third-degree connections. If you’d like to touch base with a second-degree connection on LinkedIn, email your first-degree contact to ask for an introduction.
Do not reach out to the second-degree contact independently; not only is it considered poor form, but people are far more likely to respond when being introduced by a mutual connection.
It’s also good etiquette to say thank you to every person who makes an introduction or helps you in some way. A brief InMail, email or phone call takes one minute.
So, you’ve just met someone who would be a great addition to your network, but you aren’t sure when to send a connection request.
How soon is too soon? Rest assured, it’s perfectly acceptable to send a request once you are back in the office after meeting the person, or immediately following a telephone or email exchange. Be sure to always personalise your connection requests, too.
Just don’t wait too long – it is standard etiquette to follow up within two days. Similarly, if you make a commitment to someone, such as sending a link or making an introduction, deliver within two days. Remember to also accept invitations in a timely manner, and send a follow-up thank you.
It’s not all one-way
Don’t pitch to new contacts as soon as you connect, though. Offer something of value first, such as a link to a relevant article.
When it comes to networking, the general rule is that you should give more than you take. As my colleague Yvonne Smyth wrote: “Before you need them, help others get what they want first.”
Effective networking involves staying in touch, so share relevant and engaging content, like and share updates from your connections, and join and contribute to industry groups. If you have a lot of expertise in certain areas, start your own LinkedIn blog.
Be genuine, insightful and authentic; show interest in others; ask questions; and be respectful of people’s time. But don’t over-post, otherwise your communications could be too diluted.
Finally, introductions via technology can be a good starting point, but professional relationships are usually cemented in person. Take the time to get to know people by attending industry events and joining an association or professional group.
With these online networking etiquette tips, you’re ready to build and leverage your connections in a thoughtful, effective and professional manner.
By Jane McNeill
Jane McNeill is managing director of both New South Wales and Western Australia at Hays Recruitment.
A version of this article previously appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.