For many, using LinkedIn is anxiety-inducing – it feels like there’s a lot of pressure to present the perfect version of yourself as someone who could be hired by any job out there. Remember you absolutely don’t have to be perfect, especially when starting out – don’t sweat it, take it step by step. Fill out your profile, join some groups, like some posts and then, most importantly, make some connections.
This may sound like the hard part – you may be starting out in your field and not know a lot of people in it, or you simply don’t know who’s worthwhile to connect with. The connections you make should all be meaningful, which may make LinkedIn seem even more nerve-wracking, but there’s an easy way to figure out who’s best to connect with.
All you need to do is consider what your goal on LinkedIn is before reaching out to connect: are you looking for a new job? Are you looking for potential clients? Do you just want to establish yourself as a professional in your field? Follow up by asking yourself: what types of connections can help with that? Remember to cast a wide net, too – if you’re looking for a new job, don’t just seek out hiring managers to pitch yourself to. Plenty of people can help you in your career journey in many unique ways, so exhaust all the possible ways they can assist.
From there, add your connections accordingly. To help, here are four groups of LinkedIn users you should consider connecting with.
1. Anyone you already know
No matter what your goal on LinkedIn is, this is the best place to start when finding your footing with LinkedIn. Add absolutely anyone in your current network: current managers and co-workers, former managers and co-workers, clients or customers you regularly work with, professors you’ve had, friends and family. Absolutely anyone you can think of.
Connecting with people you know is important for multiple reasons. Right off the bat, it’s great to have people you know in your network – you’ll all be rooting for each other on your career journey. Visually, though, having an established network presents you as somebody reputable, someone who already has a great career journey behind them. It’ll draw more people into wanting to connect with you, and potential employers will be sure to notice this. People are also more likely to recommend those they know for jobs, or businesses owned by their friends. If they see that you’re on LinkedIn looking for work or sharing what your company’s doing, they’re likely to send opportunities your way.
Whenever you meet someone new, remember to add them to LinkedIn as soon as you can, too. Anyone new who starts at your job, new clients you’d like to establish long-term working relationships with, or people you meet at industry conferences. It’s always great to expand your network.
2. Professionals you admire
This group is for people who are starting out in their industry. Think of all the people in your field that you look up to. Are there stylists or designers you’ve been following on Instagram for years? Have you been regularly reading someone’s articles? It doesn’t even have to be someone you know by name – maybe there’s a position you’ve always dreamt of having. This can be as vague as “full-time fashion stylists” or as specific as “head stylist at SSENSE.” Look for people in these positions and connect with them, too. When you reach out to them, remember that the initial message you send with the connection is very important. Don’t be vague – describe why you admire them and why you’d like to connect!
Connecting with people you admire means you have a front row seat to their career journey. You can see how they landed in their field, where they go from there, and anything they post along the way. Use their posts and profile as guidance – don’t directly copy them, but look for things that you can apply to your own career journey. You also shouldn’t feel shy about reaching out to them for an informational interview, or even just to send some questions over LinkedIn’s chat function.
3. Professionals currently working in your field
Scour the employees of companies you’re interested in working for, groups for professionals in your field and the networks of connections you’ve already made in your field (or the field you aspire to be in, if starting out). Look for people in powerful positions and entry-level positions alike – any connections you make are helpful no matter what your goal is. You’ll have more possibilities for job opportunities (whether getting hired or doing the hiring), you’ll find more businesses who might want to work with yours, or discover a lot of different perspectives on your field and what a day in the life at certain companies or in specific positions would look like.
This group is especially important if you’re starting out. Higher-ups in your field can offer insight into how they got into their positions of power and their pages could potentially guide you to the job of your dreams, but anyone entry-level is navigating the business from the ground up just like you, meaning you’ll be able to support each other throughout your career journeys.
4. Anyone who interacts with your posts
It’s simple: if people are liking or commenting on your LinkedIn posts, they’re interested in your content. Even if they’re from a completely different field, connect with them. Whether you’re the CEO of a company or you’ve just started university, connect with them. Start liking and commenting on their posts, too. Clearly, they find value in what you have to say, which means this could be the beginning of another supportive relationship in your network. You have someone else in your corner and now, they’ll appreciate that they have you in theirs – plus, who knows? Maybe one of you will be looking for a professional in the other’s field someday, or maybe they’ll be interested in your company and become a loyal client!
Maximizing LinkedIn doesn’t have to be so daunting. Try to view it as an opportunity to network from a comfortable place (your own home!), a way to meet new people, or the place where you may find your next job or client. If connecting with people is nerve-wracking, know the worst thing they can do is deny your connection. From there, move onto the next one – your network will grow in no time.
Need some more LinkedIn advice? Ask Style Nine to Five founder, Christie Lohr, 1 Career Question.
Emily Morrison is a media professional with passions for writing, film and popular culture.
Feature Image: DenPhoto – stock.adobe.com