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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 advisor helping young leaders build courage in themselves.

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

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    Last Updated on November 19, 2020

    The Gentle Art of Saying No for a Less Stressful Life

    The Gentle Art of Saying No for a Less Stressful Life

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments—you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time. That’s why the art of saying no can be a game changer for productivity.

    Requests for your time are coming in all the time—from family members, friends, children, coworkers, etc. To stay productive, minimize stress, and avoid wasting time, you have to learn the gentle art of saying no—an art that many people have problems with.

    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger, or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

    However, it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here’s how to stop people pleasing and master the gentle art of saying no.

    1. Value Your Time

    Know your commitments and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it.

    Be honest when you tell them that: “I just can’t right now. My plate is overloaded as it is.” They’ll sympathize as they likely have a lot going on as well, and they’ll respect your openness, honesty, and attention to self-care.

    2. Know Your Priorities

    Even if you do have some extra time (which, for many of us, is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time?

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    For example, if my wife asks me to pick up the kids from school a couple of extra days a week, I’ll likely try to make time for it as my family is my highest priority. However, if a coworker asks for help on some extra projects, I know that will mean less time with my wife and kids, so I will be more likely to say no. 

    However, for others, work is their priority, and helping on extra projects could mean the chance for a promotion or raise. It’s all about knowing your long-term goals and what you’ll need to say yes and no to in order to get there. 

    You can learn more about how to set your priorities here.

    3. Practice Saying No

    Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word[1].

    Sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.

    4. Don’t Apologize

    A common way to start out is “I’m sorry, but…” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important when you learn to say no, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm and unapologetic about guarding your time.

    When you say no, realize that you have nothing to feel bad about. You have every right to ensure you have time for the things that are important to you. 

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    5. Stop Being Nice

    Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. However, if you erect a wall or set boundaries, they will look for easier targets.

    Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.

    6. Say No to Your Boss

    Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss—they’re our boss, right? And if we start saying no, then we look like we can’t handle the work—at least, that’s the common reasoning[2].

    In fact, it’s the opposite—explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.

    7. Pre-Empting

    It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting,

    “Look, everyone, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects, and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”

    This, of course, takes a great deal of awareness that you’ll likely only have after having worked in one place or been friends with someone for a while. However, once you get the hang of it, it can be incredibly useful.

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    8. Get Back to You

    Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, try saying no this way:

    “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.”

    At least you gave it some consideration.

    9. Maybe Later

    If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say,

    “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].”

    Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands. If you need to continue saying no, here are some other ways to do so[3]:

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    Saying no the healthy way

      10. It’s Not You, It’s Me

      This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often, the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time.

      Simply say so—you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization—but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true, as people can sense insincerity.

      The Bottom Line

      Saying no isn’t an easy thing to do, but once you master it, you’ll find that you’re less stressed and more focused on the things that really matter to you. There’s no need to feel guilty about organizing your personal life and mental health in a way that feels good to you.

      Remember that when you learn to say no, isn’t about being mean. It’s about taking care of your time, energy, and sanity. Once you learn how to say no in a good way, people will respect your willingness to practice self-care and prioritization. 

      More Tips for a Less Stressful Life

      Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

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