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Published on November 19, 2020

How to Network on LinkedIn (6 Dos and Don’ts)

How to Network on LinkedIn (6 Dos and Don’ts)

You’ve gotten past the fear of rejection and embarrassment of putting yourself out there, and now you’re ready to learn how to network on LinkedIn. You’re ready to level-up your professional network, secure job opportunities, and move your career forward.

There’s just one problem. You’re not sure about the appropriate approach to take once you’ve found a person (or people) you want to connect with. Should you get personal or straight to the point? Should you leverage shared connections in your initial outreach? Is it best to ask for permission before sending links you want connections to click through?

There’s a lot to think about. However, a good place to start is with the goal of networking, which is to cultivate productive relationships for employment or business[1].

LinkedIn-marketing-hacks

    With that in mind, there is no right or wrong way to network on LinkedIn and make valuable connections, but there are best practices[2]. And, many of them are the same tested strategies professional speakers, like me, use to connect with their audiences.

    As you’re learning how to network on LinkedIn, here are some things you should always aim to do, and several things you should always avoid.

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    DO: Read the Room (or Profile)

    Before you begin the process of reaching out to someone on LinkedIn, it’s a good idea to do a little research on them. You don’t need to go much farther than their LinkedIn profile to get valuable intel.

    Take a look at the tone of their page. Is it informal or scholarly? Does it include personal information or is it strictly professional? Is the profile picture serious or lighthearted? Understanding the tone may help you decide what tone you should use in your message to them.

    Social science research reveals that when people encounter others who behave similarly to themselves, they will be considered more likable, and, likability aids connection[3]. Professional speakers will often read the room before they present to assess the audience’s mood and energy level. They do this so they can meet the audience where they are before taking the audience on a journey.

    To be clear, this doesn’t mean you should change yourself to make a connection. However, matching the vibe of a person’s profile, at least initially, may help you jumpstart the relationship building process. But, as you’re learning how to network on LinkedIn, your research (and use of similarity-attraction) shouldn’t stop at assessing tone.

    DO: Find a Shared Connection

    As you read a person’s profile, you should be on the look out for shared connections or common affiliations. Did you attend the same conference? Did you both graduate from the same university? Do you follow similar thought leaders or volunteer for the same group?

    Sometimes a shared connection is a mutual friend or colleague. These mutual affiliations are important because they help build trust, and what’s a relationship without trust? As a professional speaker, I will often do research before I hit the stage to understand as much as possible about my audience so that I can effectively highlight shared connections along the way to building rapport.

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    Highlighting shared connections in your communication will help create a sense of familiarity. Familiarity is important in networking on LinkedIn because it breeds trust.

    DO: Make the Outreach About Them

    Think about the last time you received an email or had a conversation with someone, and the person on the other end couldn’t stop talking about themselves. While the interaction may have left them feeling good, you were likely annoyed or uninterested. That’s because we’re innately wired to connect, not control.

    Harvard neuroscientists have even discovered that talking about ourselves gives us the the same pleasure signals in the brain as food or money[4].

    We evaluate whether a connection is valuable, in part, by determining if it offer two-way engagement and invites reciprocity. It’s why professional speakers, whose job is to connect with their audiences, deliberately spend less time talking about themselves than listening to their audience. It’s also why you should avoid filling up an entire LinkedIn message with talk about who you are and what you do.

    Instead, put the person you hope to network with at the center of your outreach. After all, the point of networking is to build a relationship, not monopolize one.

    As you’re learning how to network on LinkedIn, you can get to know more about your connections by asking them great questions. Questions not only help you gain information and insight, but they help you move conversations forward and transition from online to offline networking.

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    DO: Ask for Permission

    If your networking goal on LinkedIn is to find customers for your product or service, then you’ll want to take the important action of asking for permission before sending links or literature. Asking for permission not only invites engagement, but it also creates an opportunity for buy-in.

    Would it be ok if I send you an article about the three ways x product can help your team increase productivity?

    Getting agreement from the person you are networking with informs you that the person is open, attentive and, likely, in anticipation of the value you have to share. Professional speakers often ask their audiences for permission to share advice or more ahead in a presentation. Doing so creates agreement, shares control, and improves the audience experience.

    If you, however, initiate a networking exchange by sending sales material to someone who didn’t ask for them, you may come across as impersonal and intrusive and complicate your chances of fostering a valuable relationship.

    DON’T: Look for Something With Nothing to Give

    A cornerstone of any good relationship, whether personal or professional, is mutual benefit. The priority as you’re learning how to network on LinkedIn should not be solely focused on what you can gain from a particular connection. You must also consider what you can give.

    How can you help them? How can you add value to their current situation? If you are an emerging leader or young professional, you may feel like you are not far along enough in your career to be of much help to seasoned professionals you hope to connect with. That isn’t true.

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    You have perspective to offer, introductions to suggest, and helpful feedback to pass along. You can also give encouragement through actively engaging on posts and articles your connections write. Be sure that you prioritize being of value as much as you focus on receiving benefits through your networking efforts.

    In fact, the more you focus on serving up value to others, the easier you may find networking altogether.

    DON’T: Be Afraid to Follow up

    If your networking efforts don’t immediately result in dialogue or other exchanges, don’t be afraid to follow up[5]. Sending a single message at a single moment in time may not translate to a lack of interest in connection. It could just be bad timing.

    Before you check in again, though, review your initial outreach to see if you if you followed the suggestions described here. If not, be sure to retool your approach before hitting send. Also, be sure to follow up with your connections if they give you actionable advice.

    Checking back in to let them know that you’ve applied their feedback helps to establish the relationship as beneficial for both parties.

    The Bottom Line

    Learning how to network on LinkedIn takes trial and error, and you’ll eventually find your flow, but, you don’t have to start from scratch. Take into consideration strategies professional speakers use to connect with their audiences as you figure out how to connect with professionals on LinkedIn. Before reaching out to someone you’d like to link with, be sure to read their profile as it contains valuable pieces of information that can help you tailor your approach.

    If your networking goals include finding customers for your product or service, be sure not to bombard potential connections with communication that feels too self-centered. At the end of the day, remember this: relationships of all kinds, even those developed on LinkedIn, should provide value for everyone involved.

    More on How to Network

    Featured photo credit: inlytics via unsplash.com

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    More by this author

    Candace Doby

    Speaker, author and coach helping young leaders build courage in themselves.

    4 Effective Ways To Collaborate With Your Team 3 Workplace Goals To Set For Professional Development How to Network on LinkedIn (6 Dos and Don’ts)

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    Last Updated on February 11, 2021

    Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

    Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

    How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

    Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

    The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

    Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

    Perceptual Barrier

    The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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    The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

    The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

    Attitudinal Barrier

    Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

    The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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    The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

    Language Barrier

    This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

    The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

    The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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    Emotional Barrier

    Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

    The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

    The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

    Cultural Barrier

    Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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    The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

    The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

    Gender Barrier

    Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

    The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

    The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

    And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

    Reference

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