Take the Work Out of Networking: Real Member Perspectives
May 18, 2015
Hello My Name Is...awkward conversation.
Hello My Name Is...sweaty and uncomfortable.
Hello My Name Is...can I go home now?
For many of us, traditional networking is the stuff of nightmares - from the “Hello My Name Is” sticker stuck haphazardly on your suit jacket to the pressure to be as charming as Jimmy Fallon with every new person you meet. Personally, I don’t love these kinds of cold-start networking events - but as part of my professional life, I do love staying in touch with my network, asking them for advice, and helping people out with questions or leads.
The bottom line: networking is really just building and nurturing your professional relationships - and we all do that organically every day as we make friendships and create lasting connections in our personal lives. On the professional front, the only thing that changes are the tools you might use to connect and stay in touch. Three LinkedIn members and entrepreneurs shared how they used LinkedIn profiles, messages and long-form posts to help forge and strengthen great professional relationships:
“Use LinkedIn to take the pressure off in-person interactions.”
When attorney and entrepreneur Megan Garrett left a high-caliber legal practice to move back to Utah, she used her LinkedIn profile to build credibility as she developed the kind of litigation practice and client base she had left behind. “I’ve always tried to avoid being ‘sales-y’ at networking events,” she said. “Being in the moment and making a personal connection is more important to me because that’s how you build a relationship.” Instead, Megan lets her profile do the talking for her by inviting people to connect as a follow-up after great conversations. On LinkedIn, they see her experience, history and professional identity and it reinforces the first impressions she’s made. “My profile really helps me show, not tell, someone that I’m a capable professional.”
What can you learn from Megan? Ease up on yourself in professional social settings and just enjoy getting to know people, no agenda involved. Then send a personalized connection request afterward to keep the conversation going.
“People like to help if you ask.”
As founder and CEO Helen Adeosun knows, asking for help when you’re starting out can feel daunting. But she needed some insights and perspective as she started her first company and InMail and messages were her way, well, in. She sent quick, simple notes to people she thought were interesting and sharp - and they responded. “I loved connecting with entrepreneurs to talk about what we’re creating,” said Adeosun. “Those initial connections have since become advisors willing to take our calls when I struggle and investors who have opened their connections to us.” Think of LinkedIn as a place to strategically build your own professional community, Adeosun says, and find many of your champions in one spot.
What can you learn from Helen? Long messages can feel overwhelming - so write something concise and thoughtful. That makes it easy for someone busy to read, absorb, and then respond to you. As a bonus, your odds of expanding your professional community increase.
“Writing is another way to invite conversation.”
Andrea Waxler spent her entire career in tech - and then took an opportunity to completely pivot, creating a rewarding professional second act for herself. Now a fine art photographer, she used LinkedIn to tell that new story - and the ability to write long-form posts on the site to connect with others. “My posts have sparked real engagement with other LinkedIn members,” she said. “I’ve heard from other photographers curious about my work, technique and equipment. One post on getting your photos published even drove visitors to my website.” If your profile tells your professional story, posting - as Andrea observed - reinforces it in your own words and invites others to comment and connect with you.
What can you learn from Andrea? You can begin a great conversation in different ways. Write a post or update yourself - or start small by leaving an insightful comment or a good question on what someone else has shared.
Strengthening your relationships with people doesn’t have to be time-consuming or difficult - simple, easy and fast gestures go a long way on LinkedIn. Try commenting on a colleague’s update, “liking” a job change or anniversary, or dropping your old mentor a quick note today. You can ask a question or offer to help - often the best networking comes when you have nothing to gain and everything to offer.