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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

    Reference

    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 January 24, 2021

    How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

    How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

    Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

    For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

    But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

    It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

    And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

    The Importance of Saying No

    When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

    In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

    Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

    Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

    Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

    “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

    When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

    How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

    It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

    From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

    We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

    And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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    At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

    The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

    How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

    Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

    But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

    3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

    1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

    Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

    If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

    2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

    When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

    Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

    3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

    When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

    6 Ways to Start Saying No

    Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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    1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

    One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

    Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

    2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

    Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

    Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

    3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

    Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

    Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

    You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

    4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

    Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

    Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

    5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

    When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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    How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

      Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

      Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

      6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

      If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

      Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

      Final Thoughts

      Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

      Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

      Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

      More Tips on How to Say No

      Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
      [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
      [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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