I know, I know. I’m hearing a lot of groans through my computer screen from you. I can sense them! LinkedIn is obviously a really helpful tool and platform for SO many reasons, but people often get stumped when trying to use it for actual networking with people they don’t know. In other words, you know it could be a good avenue for you and open up some previously unseen doors, but it feels weird to reach out to “randos” on LinkedIn and besides, you wouldn’t even know what to say. Does that about sum it up?
I totally get it. If not done properly in a non-thought out way, it can be a little useless and feel funky, so I’m here today to share some tips – in chronological order- to make it useful and productive- and maybe even a little natural. I’ve been working with a couple of clients on this, so it’s top of mind, so I want to share some of it with you here. Read on, dear friend!:
Check Out LinkedIn Premium: They give you a free month, so for this LinkedIn plan of action we’re about to embark on, it’s worth it. Why? Because you can see people’s email addresses, which is MUCH more useful than LinkedIn’s InMail system. I can’t tell you how many messages I miss from there- mainly, it’s because most people do not have their LinkedIn open all day and if your primary email is gmail, for example, emails notifying you that you….have an email go to that blasted social tab. Anyway, they’re easy to miss so emailing your top potential people via their actual email is the way to go.
Start Finding Peeps: Groups! Once you have LinkedIn Premium, joining relevant groups is the next thing to do. Not all groups are created equal, as I say to my clients, so it might take some due diligence on your part (e.g. Are all the posts sales posts or not conducive to discussion? Do people post frequently?). And you can always un-join a group that isn’t useful to your career goals if you realize it’s not great. Do a search for your field (e.g. “project manager groups”) and check out size, activity, level of discussion and level of professional. Check out the most frequent contributors. There’s also an added bonus that anyone in a shared group can be InMailed directly without a Premium account, if you decide not to get a premium account for the free month.
**Note: Don’t reach out to people willy nilly and don’t email blast the same email to dozens of people. This is a curated approach and not a ‘numbers’ game.
Start Finding Peeps: Connections! You might also already be connected to some relevant people that you might not even remember! Check them out and make note of them. Also, do a search for your field in your area (e.g. “project managers NYC” either in the basic or advanced search- NOTE: LinkedIn Premium also has more robust search options) and see if you have any 2nd degree connections that friends/1st degree connections can introduce you to.
Keep Track: If you have a CRM system like Highrise or your Outlook calendar, use that, but good ol’ Excel will help too. You can really go into the rabbit hole with this, so when you see someone that might be a good networking fit, add them to the list. What we’re going for here before even sending one email, is a list of 20-30 people you can start with to get your feet wet (you can always add more!). Ensure that you’ve captured relevant info like their contact info, how you ‘know’ each other (ie is it a group or a shared connection?) and why their profile piqued your interest. This will be important for the actual outreach.
Prioritize: Of those 20-30 people, who is the most natural fit? In other words, who can you imagine getting your email and being excited about the possibility of connecting with you? Yes, this is a two way street and you have something to offer as well, especially to those top 5-7 individuals you find. Maybe they posted something recently that you can help with or have a resource to share. Maybe they work at a company aligned directly with your values. Maybe they do what you do and you can share best practices. (This is the ‘why their profile piqued your interest” note in the last section, but it’s important because your outreach has to be thoughtful and targeted so we’re reiterating it here!)
Follow Up: You will not hear from everyone the first go around, so it’s absolutely worth following up (yes, even if they don’t know you) to show them you’re serious about this and didn’t just blast 200 people with the same email. Maybe they missed it or maybe they meant to get back to you but forgot. Believe me, ONE email follow up to an already cold email is not going to anger anyone (and if it does, do you want to be connected to that person anyway?). So, make follow up part of this process.
Timing: Using LinkedIn for networking usually isn’t the quickest way of getting a job, so if you’re looking for it to replace your current network and job searching, don’t. You might get lucky and contact someone at the exact right time, but this isn’t a “blitz” of cold-emailing 200 people the same email and hoping something sticks. This is a more curated approach and takes time. So this is ONE of the pieces of the job search and career development puzzle and shouldn’t take the place of other important elements. If you’re not in active job search mode, I recommend making this part of your Career Upkeep monthly- maybe spending 2 hours a month on this process. If you’re job searching, I recommend making the above steps part of your weekly process. Maybe on Mondays you do some research, Tuesdays you email and the following Monday you do your one follow up email. You’ll see what works for you.
I’ll explain all you need to know about networking on in my course The Career Change Kitchen launching January 10th Check it out here!
Next week, I’m going to be sharing some actual outreach templates for these LinkedIn outreaches so stay tuned for that!
What have you done to reach out to people you don’t know on LinkedIN? Did it work? Not work? Share in the comments below!