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Grads: Turn LinkedIn Connections into Networking Opportunities

By Consiglia Intile, Assistant Director of Career Services 

LinkedIn_logo_initialsAs a job seeker, you may come to dread the very notion of networking with valuable LinkedIn connections. After all, these people may hold the keys to your career, provided you make the right first impression. To help remedy your nerves and provide a nice confidence boost, let’s explore some common do’s and don’ts of connecting on LinkedIn.

Do: Research your potential networking contacts and their companies

This is the first step job seekers should take prior to any conversation that is started on LinkedIn or any other networking venue. Job seekers should review the employer’s and the connection’s page and identify something they enjoyed reading or found interesting or instructive. These items can serve as the basis for an initial conversation. Also, adding a question about their background experience can show your connection-to-be that your intent is to learn from them. Forming a friendly relationship in which you are appealing to your connection’s expertise is often an effective way to network.

Do: Prepare questions in advance of the conversation

This is an important piece of any networking conversation. Often, networking should be treated as an informational interview. Job seekers should focus on starting the interview with a general professional greeting, and use questions such as “tell me how you got started in this field?,” “What was your background before entering the field?,” “What do you find most rewarding/challenging about your field?,” and “What can I do to prepare for a career in this field?” Having questions like these prepared in advance shows the employer that you respect their time and shows you put effort into making this conversation productive.

Don’t: Leave the ball in their court

After conducting an informational interview, don’t leave it up to your connection to stay in touch. It is very important to follow up with your contact by sending a thank-you letter afterwards. To ensure your thank-you letter is effective, write down your thoughts and impressions of the meeting and address anything that you might have missed during your conversation. Sending this letter can bring about a closer tie with this contact which can result in a recommendation or future opportunities with their company.

Don’t: Expect or ask the connection if they can help you get a job

This is a very common question many job seekers ask their connections on LinkedIn. Asking this too early or at all may come across as desperate or insincere which will cause your connection to think this is the only reason  you contacted them in the first place. This should be avoided at all measures on LinkedIn because it is seen to be very unprofessional. The goal is to make a great first impression with your contact, have a thought-out discussion with them in hopes they would think of you when there is an open position for which you are qualified. If you made an impact on the employer or connection, they may contact you about available positions.