A great way to build your network online is using LinkedIn, the ubiquitous professional social 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, explore this step-by-step guide to help you find your next expat job or kickstart your entrepreneurial career. Just remember to leave old fears of online (or offline) networking in the past, and always be open to helping others!
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Go to the Advanced People Search on LinkedIn. Either search by company name in the main keyword filter to target specific organizations or use individual job or 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.
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, you’ll see your degrees of separation from the person; 1st, 2nd, or 3rd will appear next to their name as a result. The numbers indicate how close they are to you in your network: a direct connection (1st), a connection of a connection (2nd), or a connection of a connection of a connection (3rd). Being in their first or second level network allows you to message others without connecting directly.
If you don’t have any shared groups or connections with target professionals, look at the groups listed on their profiles; join the ones that match your background. This is a great way to ensure you’re a member of all of the most relevant groups to your industry, 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 demonstrate thought leadership.
Next, reach out to target professionals in a friendly and professional way; comment on shared groups or connections and state that you’d like to add them to your network. If they are open to networking on LinkedIn and think your profile is interesting, they will accept.
Once connected, the idea is to build rapport as you would in any other relationship. Although this is targeted networking on LinkedIn, don’t announce you are looking for a job right away. While opportunities can arise through being more direct, it’s wise to build your network with relevant contacts over the long-term. That way, in three to six months or so, when you’re ready to move, you’ll have a strong contact base to enquire into for openings or just meetings for coffee to gather valuable information.
Keep contacts engaged
You should regularly add industry- or function-focused status updates to your profile; one or two per day, but once a week is also fine. Post links to interesting articles and, ideally, include links to your own if you have any. You should also interact with status updates from your contacts in a friendly and professional manner; congratulate them on new jobs or comment on their posts. Your new contacts will see your interactions on their LinkedIn timeline and, if they’re active on LinkedIn, you’ll remain on their radar. In addition, if you find insightful industry reports or white papers, share them with your relevant contacts via private message; make sure you include friendly questions to continue to build rapport.
Take it offline
When you are in an executive job search, send brief targeted messages inquiring more about their organization, location, or specific market; relate your questions to your experience. If they’re open to networking on LinkedIn, you’ll have a chance to gather information and perhaps hear about opportunities they know of. Don’t be afraid to take it offline; mention that you’re visiting the area and offer to meet for coffee.
Building your network online is a perpetual process for all senior executives. Providing that you’re proactive with building relationships, new opportunities will come your way as long as you don’t lapse with your targeted networking on LinkedIn. Just remember not to stop networking, thereby losing touch with valuable connections once you’re employed. Your online network will increasingly serve as your safety net and first port of call during a career transition, and you may need it sooner than you think.