Networking: How to Do It
May 17, 2011 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Digital Job Search, LinkedIn Filter: I'm shy when it comes to asking people for help. I want to expand my job search horizons by learning how to use LinkedIn more effectively, and by getting over my inability to network.

Like many others, I'm a recent grad with a LinkedIn profile. It's clear, filled out, and according to my professional friends from other industries, very enticing. Despite this, however, I've yet to figure out a way to use this profile to my advantage when networking because I have no idea how to network without making myself feel like a brown-noser. I would like to overcome this problem so that I can finally show potential employers what an excellent asset I'd be to their company.

The other day, for example, I noticed that one of my former classmates got Linked with some of the HR folks at two or three companies I would kill to work for. I have no idea how she connected with these key recruiters and quite frankly, I'm envious, and daunted, because now she has the ear of three people who are demonstratedly good at getting their connections work, and I want to ask her to introduce me to them, too. Another contact of mine expressed interest in a mutual friend's resume recently because said contact's company is looking for production assistants and told her to use LinkedIn to do it. I desperately wanted to offer up my info but didn't because, again, I'm not adept at networking.

How can I learn to more effectively navigate this problem, and more specifically, how can I use LinkedIn to help me do it? What kind of protocols are in place when it comes to contacting a recruiter on LinkedIn (verbage, what to say/what not to say, etc). Beyond that resources are out there that are modern and tried and true for someone like me? Maybe I'm super off the mark, so if so, please set me straight. My alma mater's career center was bullshit so I have no idea what I'm doing anymore.

I know that if I could just move beyond this, I could really improve my chances of getting hired somewhere. I'm part of the film industry (not production, not an artist), if it matters. Thanks!
posted by iLoveTheRain to Work & Money (6 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
You're overthinking this.

1) Networking is not something to be done when you need a job. Networking is done over time, in which you develop and sustain professional relationships.

2) The protocol, so to speak, of being "connected" to someone on LinkedIn is to send them an "invite" to connect. They can either accept or not. No harm no foul. For what it's worth, some people accept all linked in requests (as I do) and some people will only accept requests from people they have met in real life. I have connected to some fairly prominent people on both LinkedIn and Facebook, but I read into this no more than the momentary ego boost ("Christian Slater accepted my Facebook friend request!") I don't see any of this as a way to get a job in the near term. It can, however, be useful over the longer term. See point 1 above.
posted by dfriedman at 3:14 PM on May 17, 2011

Forget about Linkedin or Facebook. They can be helpful, but face-to-face networking is much more effective. Call or email your friend and ask her if she wants to catch up for a drink or coffee. Casually mention that you might be interested if there are any opportunities at her workplace. That is networking - or at least, that's how it's worked for me.
posted by Diag at 3:33 PM on May 17, 2011

I have no idea how to network without making myself feel like a brown-noser.

Erase this idea from your brain-tape. Getting a job, especially these days, calls for a stout heart, strong nerves, a thick skin and balls of steel. And don't forget about a steady hand.

Ask your LinkedIn pal how she met these people (even if met is online, not irl.) Don't forget about LinkedIn--lots of people use it to get connected with companies and jobs. But you have to just plunge in--even if you're sucking up a little, so what? Who doesn't want to hear from some fresh-faced young grad with a lot to offer? Just be polite, to the point, etc.
Get connected with the people you do know, and then ask for suggestions or recommendations. Networking in the real world is also good, but lots of people are online, sitting around. I'm a free-lancer, so I have to connect with people and pitch myself or I'd starve.

If you hear of a job or find a place you want to work--cast around to see who you know who knows someone who knows someone else, etc. etc. It's not hard. Someone's got a cool project on Kickstarter--see who you know that can hook you up. Cast your bread on the waters, so to speak.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:59 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a freelancer and get a lot of my work through LinkedIn each year (This year approximately 90% of my work came through LinkedIn). In the first 1.5 years as a freelancer, I was approached almost weekly by recruiters/headhunters asking to link in along with them asking me to followup for a fulltime job/info (although I wasn't looking for that).

Anyway, some of the things that I did included:

• Filling out the CV/resume section in great detail (because recruiters do search by keywords and are looking for a specific skill set). What are things that people look for in your industry? Have you done those things? List it. You may want to ask your colleagues or look at the profiles of people who get tagged by recruiters a lot to see what they are listing and if you have similar experience, write it down.

• If you are looking for a job, there is a status update – write down that you are looking for a job.

• Do you have contact info? (I actually link my profile to my business webpage, too, but I’m a freelancer so YMMV).

I love LinkedIn because all you need to do is list the info and if your skill set matches, someone will find you (but that may be my industry, I don't know).

I don't really believe that you need to "Link" to the other person, by the way -- because for most of my projects, the people find me, contact me (through email), and assign project We never actually link but they see my background and later have a conversation after they contact me.

Another thing that worked really well for me is to send emails to companies. Tell them briefly who are, contact info, a few bullets about you -- it turned into a lot of work, too,early on. You can find these lists anywhere (google,search linkedin, etc.).

It does not sound like you need to do an informational interview because it sounds like you know what you want to do ...but if you need to do so and need tips on "how to do it as a shy person", this is what I did here. Not retyping because ....already typed it out here. That may not be the right one (how to info interview if you are shy), but I've answered questions like this a few times. You may want to search for similar previously asked questions. Good luck.

One more thing. Do not be embarassed about contacting recruiters - if you are looking for a job, they would probably be happy to be work with you. Trust me.
posted by Wolfster at 4:26 PM on May 17, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: >> I want to expand my job search horizons by learning how to use LinkedIn more effectively, and by getting over my inability to network.

First, you need to get your head fully around the idea that these are two different things.

If I'm reading you correctly, you feel that Networking is an activity and LinkedIn is the tool that executes the activity for you. In fact, LinkedIn merely serves as a highly filtered, online version of the Yellow Pages: people who are on it are professionals, and they want to share a brief resume, and they want to connect with others, and LinkedIn is a way to find them.

That in and of itself isn't networking. People rarely just troll LinkedIn looking for candidates to hire, IME -- that you have one contact who is doing it seems anomalous to me, but I realize that might be a difference in industry talking. The job market is simply too competitive for that. Instead, they use LI to research a candidate of whom they've already become aware, either through a word-of-mouth referral, a live intro at an event, or a phone call or direct email.

I agree with the two prior posters both that networking must become an ongoing practice for you, and that face-to-face networking is more effective. Here's how you do that, in a nutshell.

1. Get over a fear of the phone, and of small talk at networking events. That you are shy and reluctant to impose will hinder you, but only if you let it.

I used to do this; I hated "cold calling" people so I'd send dozens of emails (but never go to any events)... and then I'd wonder why it never paid off into those great relationships that other people seemed to conjure up. You have to shake hands and make phone calls to be successful at networking.

Find the events. Whether it's the young professionals' group in your area, or a trade association, or a social media event, figure out where the recent grads are going and go there.

Get a business card to hand out at the events. It can be a cheapy one from VistaPrint, with your name/email/phone on it. Come up with a short tagline that presents your value proposition to the industry, to put with your name. Or put your LI profile URL. (make sure you've got the personalized one, like

But people exchange business cards because it's a way to make sure someone walks away knowing how to contact you. And it makes a better impression than scribbling your number on a cocktail napkin.

Then... give away all your business cards. The wider a net you cast, the more likely you are to catch a fish. Introduce yourself to everyone you can. Make sure the last thing they hear you say is "I'm looking for a new opportunity, so keep me in mind if you hear of anything!"

2. Recalibrate your thinking about "imposing" (on preview, like Ideefixe and Wolfster said). If you call up a recruiter and happen to be a great fit for a position she has open, you've just made her some money. That is no kind of imposition. And if you aren't a fit for something she has on her desk right now, you might be in the future. The recruiters I know who are on LI have thousands and thousands of contacts... they will never turn down a request to connect.

Same for an in-house hiring manager. If you make a cold contact via LinkedIn, and it pans out, then you've just helped him do his job. If it doesn't pan out, no sweat, move on to the next one.

And if you reach out to an industry contact, with a request for a meet or an intro, you can't do any harm, really. Today it's all about the competitive candidate who takes initiative. For any given position there are dozens of other people applying. You have to take steps to rise above all that noise, and the single best way to do that is to distinguish yourself with a personal contact.

Here's an example. I just got a LI message from someone I met at a conference last year. He wanted my help.

"Hey pineapple - it's Bob Smith, we met at Industry Event in Dallas. Hope you're well and that 2011 is bringing you success! I noticed on your LinkedIn that you are a 1st contact with Jane Jones. She is a finance attorney and those are part of my business development focus. Would you mind if I dropped her a line, and mentioned that she and I have you in common? I won't be hard-selling her, I just want to see if I can drop by with my business card, maybe have coffee. Hope to see you next time I'm town! Regards, Bob"

So, I pinged Jane and told her what I knew about the guy (which isn't much), but that I remembered he was pleasant and that he was worth 15 minutes (which I didn't mind saying because he'd already alerted me that he wouldn't make a hard pitch). Boom: Bob just got me to give him a warm introduction.

But if I hadn't wanted to make that intro for some reason, I would have just told Bob that I don't really know Jane, it's one of those random LI connections that seems to pop up, sorry I can't help you. No harm, no foul.

In the world of networking, asking for a connection is not an imposition.

And don't consider a "cold email" to be an imposition. I just sent out a handful of emails to hiring managers at firms I liked, and I'm not even an active candidate, I'm just sniffing around.

If you were doing it, you might say, "Hi NAME, I'm looking for a graduate position in INDUSTRY and I think I'd be a good fit for FIRM. I'm clever, creative, and the best 22-year-old copywriter you've ever met. Please take a look at my LinkedIn profile if you'd like more information, or I'd be delighted to send you my resume. Many thanks, iLovetheRain" If they want you, they'll reply. If they don't, they'll delete. But you've done no harm whatsoever.

3. Be good with the follow-up. For every industry contact you make, reach out to that person at least once every 4-6 weeks. Set a reminder in your phone or email client. Alternate emails or phone calls. When you make the follow-up call/email, have a script if you like. "Hey, Dave, this is iLovetheRain. I just wanted to touch base after our chat at Networking Happy Hour, and see how things were going. I'm still looking for the right opportunity so please give me a call if you hear of anything. Let's get coffee soon!"

Ten years ago, I used to think, "I'll just send my resume to Important Person and she'll clearly see how skilled I am and she'll drop what she's doing and walk it over to HR Manager and then I'll have a great job."

But people are busy. It's nothing personal... but there are 157 things on their desk more important than you. Stay front of mind, and then when they have the opportunity to make a connection, they'll *snap*! "hey, that iLovetheRain seemed pretty plucky, I'll tell my assistant to give her a call." You have to make it easy for people to think about you and want to find you.

4. Don't sandbag yourself by going on and on about your job hunt or personal life. Update your LinkedIn status a couple of times a week, with interesting things—but do not cross-post between Twitter/FB and LI. News about your dog, boyfriend, or fave gelato flavor do not belong on LI. You'd think this would be common knowledge and yet I see professionals do it all the time.

In your LinkedIn statuses, avoid posting "Still looking for a job!" "Going on an interview, I really hope I get it!!!!!" "STILL LOOKING!!!!!!!!!1!!!" People want to see that you are professionally developing, not turning into a loser. Mention articles you've read, a talk you heard, or what great contacts you just made at Networking Event.

But all in all, you have to just get out there. The problem with the internet is that now, candidates are all too easy to find, and therefore the ones who rise to the top are the ones who distinguish themselves in some way from the faceless pack online. That means going to the networking events, making the phone calls, and asking for informational interviews. If you rely too much on LinkedIn, you'll get sucked into the computer—and you have to use it to supplement your job hunt, but not monopolize it.
posted by pineapple at 4:50 PM on May 17, 2011 [23 favorites]

What everyone else has said. And I'll just say, from personal experience:

-You can ask someone you're connected with on LinkedIn to be introduced to someone they are directly connected to. Any more degrees of separation than that, and you are effectively asking your connection to network for you. DON'T put someone in that awkward position.

- Once you introduce yourself to someone online who works at a company you're interested in, get on the phone or meet in person. DON'T expect that just having connected to someone online will make them confident enough about who you are to personally vouch for you enough to pass on your resume to their boss.

- When someone says they are happy to find a time to chat, DON'T write back with "Great! Here's my number." You have to do the legwork and all of the reaching out: don't leave it up to them to have to remember to contact you and ask you what you need.

- When you say you'll follow up with someone after having a conversation, DO IT. Remind them who you are and thank you for their time.

- DON'T just email out of the blue every few months with a pressing career crisis, looking for guidance, and then disappear again. Networking is not counseling.

- DON'T be cutesy ("HiHi!" is possibly the worst email subject line ever). DO capitalize correctly. Banish "lol" from God's Green Earth.

Most people who have been working for a little while remember what it's like to start out and are both willing and gracious with the little time they have. Be hyper-aware of this and never make them work extra to do so. The onus is on you to do the legwork to make it effortless and rewarding for them to help you.
posted by sestaaak at 5:36 PM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

« Older Can I still use this ground beef?   |   I want to learn to find the time to learn to do... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.