As a young professional and someone who has grown up in Baltimore, more affectionately referred to as “Small-timore” (because most days it feels like a small town), I’ve realized that it really is about who you know. My first job after college was the result of an introduction on LinkedIn and an internship.
“Hey, you know so and so, me too,” is pretty common in Baltimore (add some social media on top of that, phew, everyone knows everyone). When we recognize a mutual connection, we laugh and comment on how crazy it is. But for many of us the conversation ends there. It is time to use our connections for some mutual benefit.
When building your network, be intentional. You want people in your network that you know. It would be easy to connect and build out my network with just about everyone in Baltimore and beyond, from high school and college, through sports over the years, and other jobs I have held, but I don’t want all of those people in my network. There are people who have huge networks, but for them it’s quantity over quality, whereas the goal should be quality then quantity.
While it is all about who you know, it is also about who they know. While each connection in my network does not have to be someone I talk to regularly, I want there to be some name recognition so that if Jane were to ask to be introduced to one of my connections, I’m able to make that introduction. It would be a bit awkward if I introduced Jane to someone I didn’t know.
As a young professional, I may not know as many people as my colleagues, parents, friends’ parents, but that’s ok. The beauty of a network is the people in it and that there is always room for growth.
If you are just getting started on LinkedIn or looking for ways to garner more connections, I have you covered!
Here are five easy ways to begin building your network:
1. Connect with Alumni.
I graduated from Washington College, a small private liberal arts college on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, that has a super strong alumni network in Baltimore. In seconds, I can go to LinkedIn and see who else graduated from WC and reach out to them. Additionally, I went to a rather large high school (yes, larger than my college) and I can do a quick search with the name of my high school in the School field in the Advanced Search area and see who else I might want to reach out to.
People you know through classes, activities, sports teams, greek life, etc. are great people to connect with. You probably don’t want to connect with the people you only saw walking to class or out at the local bar.
2. Connect with Colleagues.
As you see and interact with your colleagues on a daily basis, it is a good idea to connect with them. By connecting with them, you may find industry related content that will benefit you, customers, clients, and other colleagues. This also opens the door for a recommendation when the time is appropriate. It is important to note that if your company has 200+ employees, only connect with those you interact with. Jane from accounting in California may not be the best connection. Do not connect with competitors. Connecting with competitors gives them access to clients or customers in your network (unless you have a closed network)
3. Who’s viewed your profile.
On your homepage to the right of your photo, LinkedIn provides you with the people who have viewed your profile. If you know the people viewing your profile, connect with them. If you don’t know them, send them a message that might look something like this:
“Hi, I noticed you viewed my profile. I like to know the people in my network. Are you interested in having a conversation?” You never know where that conversation might lead… hello new job!
4. Follow companies and organizations.
When you follow companies and organizations, updates they share will appear on your Home Page newsfeed. Interacting with posts may result in people looking at your profile, which in turn, may lead to new connections. If you are looking for a new job, following companies of interest is a great idea as you will see any job postings and company updates which can be helpful to know about.
5. Join Young Professional Groups.
There are approximately 4,000 Young Professional Groups on LinkedIn. Chances are there’s at least one Group that you can join! To search for Young Professional (or any Group) hover over the menu down arrow to the left of the search bar. Scroll down, click Groups, then search away. I used the search phrase “Young Professionals,” “Young Professionals Baltimore,” etc. If there are no Young Professional Groups that catch your eye, look to join other Groups you are interested in. Once you join, be sure to participate!
Before you begin connecting on LinkedIn two important tips:
- Before you begin building your network, be sure you look good on LinkedIn and have a good photo (one that only contains you and is as professional looking as possible).
- Always customize your invitation to connect. A simple “It’s been awhile, hope you are well!” goes a long way.