For any career-minded college student or recent grad, having a profile on LinkedIn is basically expected in order to stay ahead of the game and network with peers, companies, and other professionals. As a member of this 65 million-person network, not only do you get to shamelessly market yourself for the entire world to see, but you are able to stay on the radar of recruiters for potential job opportunities, something no unemployed recent grad can afford to pass up.
There is no question that LinkedIn is a great tool for promoting yourself and garnering invaluable professional contacts, but the same reason LinkedIn is so great is what makes it so scary to use. Unlike Facebook, with its more carefree and social atmosphere, on LinkedIn you are potentially connecting with your employer, your professors, and other contacts you typically would not want perusing your Facebook profile and having access to your personal information.
While it is pretty easy to figure out the basics of LinkedIn, the specifics of how exactly you should utilize LinkedIn's functions and figuring out what is appropriate and what is not can be tricky.
Neal Schaffer, author of Windmill Networking: Understanding, Leveraging & Maximizing LinkedIn, is pretty much Her Campus's go-to guy when it comes to learning about LinkedIn, having sat down with Her Campus contributing writer Betty Jin earlier this year to discuss almost everything there is to know about the site. In this article, Neal shares what exactly is acceptable on LinkedIn when inviting people to connect, asking for recommendations, and posting status updates. With his advice, next time you get that queasy feeling in your stomach when you go to connect with your boss on LinkedIn, you can breathe a little easier knowing that you are acting just as any professional should.
Inviting people to connect
Inviting people to join your network is one of the most basic functions of LinkedIn and embodies the whole purpose of the site. This simple task of reaching out to people may seem harmless enough, but becomes complicated when you come across someone such as one of your professors or the editor-in-chief of the magazine you interned for, and you are not quite sure whether or not to take the plunge and actually hit "connect".
LinkedIn was designed to encourage people to connect with others they have actually met and know somewhat well. Friends, classmates, professors, and contacts from jobs and internships are all great people to use to expand your network. It becomes tricky when you want to connect with someone you may have met a job fair who told you to keep in touch or the head honcho of the company you interned for who you only met a couple times and doubt remembers you. Luckily, LinkedIn is evolving and it has become acceptable to connect with these types of people as well as people you might not know at all under some conditions; it just takes a little more work on your part.
Deciding how to go about connecting with a person on LinkedIn can be one of the most challenging parts of using the site. If you know the person well, the options that LinkedIn gives you when you go to add them to your network such as "Friend", "Colleague", "Classmate", etc. should be easy enough to figure out. On the other hand, if you are trying to reach out to someone you do not know quite as well and who does not necessarily fit into those categories, you need to go the extra mile and pull a few tricks.
- Look at the person's profile and see what groups they are members of on LinkedIn
- Become a member of one of their groups ONLY if it is relevant to you
- When you go to connect with the person again, an option will come up that you can select to explain that you are members of the same group
- OR you can use the group to send a message to the person explaining why you would like to connect
When inviting a person to join your network, you are always given the option to add a personal note to the request. Not including a personal message is a pet peeve of many LinkedIn users and could hurt your chance of gaining the connection; it also helps the person to remember you and gives you a chance to explain why you want to connect with them.
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