LinkedIn: Advanced Strategies For Network Expansion

Patrice Barber

Patrice Barber

CEO of Career CNX & National Professional Speaker

Leaders to have a place to come together to discuss how they’re going to balance their purpose over their paycheck. So this is what we try to focus on in these conversations. Today, we’re going to be focusing on LinkedIn: Advanced Strategies for Network Expansion.  

Any time you’re looking for a new opportunity, which, by the way, most people are looking for new opportunities inside their company or outside their company roughly about every three years at this point. 85 percent of those jobs are found through networking inside your company or outside your company. 10 to 15 percent of the jobs are listed in the open job market out there and two thirds of the job seekers look at the open job market, meaning job boards or searching online, maybe directly to company websites.  

However, 85 to 90 percent of the job market is actually a hidden job market, with more than 40 percent of those positions not even being in existence yet. There’s a conversation that leads to the creation of a new position and a new opportunity based on a problem that needs to be solved and someone who has the skills to solve it. Only about a third of job seekers even try to look for the hidden job market.  

So this is where we want to focus is how do we stay in touch with our network consistently so that the opportunities that we’re looking for are always on the horizon and we’re always involved in interesting conversations.  

Why does your network matter?

First of all, it helps you to land purpose over paycheck positions. If we get in a situation where there’s been a furlough for COVID reasons or the company’s experienced or merger acquisition and your role is no longer available, having to jump out and figure out where you’re going to go next tends to lead us into positions that we accept rather than what we love.   

If we’re proactive about this, we end up landing purpose over paycheck positions. Your network also helps you to create new opportunities. Again, back to that whole point about people having conversations, expressing their talent, and then being able to create these new opportunities out of the conversation.   Ultimately, your network creates currency, so relationships are the currency of business. 

Narrow your focus

So the first thing is narrowing our focus. How do we go about doing that? How do we define the size and scope of what it is that we are looking for? Why is that important?  

If you don’t know what you want, your network cannot help you get it. I know you have probably resonated with this, and it seems like we’re kind of hitting that point in a hard way. But really, it is vitally important to figure out for yourself what you’re really looking for out of your conversations.  

Manage your intentions

This is what most of us do right now on LinkedIn. Oftentimes, we have a fairly minimal profile. We don’t put much in the way of job results in there. We tend to accept and occasionally request connections. But most of the time we’re passive and we just kind of wait for things to come our way. We might message someone, but it’s generally when we need something and then we may like or leave a comment here and there on something that we see, but we rarely post anything of our own. And ultimately, we kind of pray for others to contact us. 

Shockingly, I'm always surprised to see how how few leaders have a complete profile. I bet ninety five percent of recruiters, 90 percent of their efforts in terms of looking for candidates, it's done on LinkedIn.  LinkedIn is a good place to find candidates because they're both passive and active.

Recruiters are always saying "We're trying to find passive candidates, the people you wouldn't find on job boards." And that's very true.  

The way that I do it is I actually build company lists that are synergistic to my clients, and then I'll go find talent within those companies. So you have to back into how you build your profile based on how you.  

You should make sure that you're tied to an organization. It should be something that's not made up. Some of us don't want to be called what we are like. I don't actually love being called a recruiter because it feels like it's not enough, but if I call myself a creative storyteller writer, I won't come up in the search filters.  

So on LinkedIn, think about "How are they going to find me?" You should have the 100 percent complete profile. Your tag line should make sense. You should have the results. You should have your resume uploaded if you're looking. That kind of stuff.

- Kristen Kenton, President & Executive Recruiter at Kenton Talent Management

Accept and occasionally request a connection

Having connections who you are connected to is also indicative of who you are and what circles you are in. Being active out there to share, what your ideas are, what your thoughts are, some of your personality, the things that you have done that you’re really proud of and therefore things that you clearly have a passion about.   It is really important to identify that on your end and then start thinking about who are your champions, your connectors and your contributors.  

  • Champions – actively aligned with you in your goals. There is like 100 percent mindshare mind sharing by that.
  • Connectors – they take your call and give introductions. However, they may not always have the level or the clout that you might need.
  • Contributors – they have your business card and your LinkedIn connection, and they may even have organizations which you are mutually connected to. They may not necessarily be in a position to give introductions or know you well enough to be comfortable to do so.

That’s the difference between contributors versus connectors versus champions, and you want to apply these prioritization to your network that you already have. Let’s talk about how and when to do this and what you might do.

The when and what of relationship intentions

Consider when do you want people to think of you, as well as what do you want them to think of you for. These are the kinds of things that you are expert at and you love to do. If you have things that you’re really great at but you hate to do them, I encourage you to minimize that on your LinkedIn profile and other places that you’re communicating. 

Think about what are your relationship intentions when you’re getting ready to expand your network? Think about three key questions that will help you to understand Is this person willing and able to help me? Each person that you’re reaching out to, are they going to be useful? Are they going to be helpful? Are they willing to do that? All of those things.

Next, figuring out what are the right opportunities for your career advancement and then thinking about who does that typically come from? Where do those come from? Maybe it’s from organizations that you’re a professional organization, that you’re a member of, making sure that you let your interesting but unaligned opportunities pass you by. This is saying no to conversations that take up a lot of time that aren’t really going to get you someplace.

Setting the size and scope

You want to think about geography. Where in the world would it be in the United States or elsewhere?

What kind of industry? And you want to focus on top three industries that you may want to be focusing in on that are industries you are interested in working in, not necessarily just industries you have had experience in, but really considering where you want to work and thinking about why you want to work in those industries.

Next, think about job titles of the people that you would want to be talking to. So would it be the CFO? Would that be a good connection for you? Would the CTO, the chief technical officer, be good? How about an executive vice president of is that level the appropriate level? And that could be an H.R. marketing sales, BP’s chief H.R. officer, etc. So figuring out the actual titles and functional areas that the people you are most interested in talking with because you’re interested in finding out more about their group, their area, functional area.

Then, thinking about company size. Which of these levels are you most interested in working in? a lot of people that will start this endeavor will consider, “Oh, I’m interested in, you know, companies from 200 to 10000.” And in reality, there’s a really big difference in working in a culture of 5000 to 10000 versus 200 to 500. And each of these levels, it’s pretty uniquely different. If you’ve worked in the large company, you may have decided you really don’t like all the politics there, and it might be time to pursue a company that’s a lot smaller because you can be a big fish in a small pond and really have a nice seat at the table where you can have a bigger impact or you may be going the other direction. Either way, pick it and make a choice about it.

 Trying to cross across every single title, every single functional area and every company size leads to very ineffective searching and finding of the right people. So, the next step here is once we figured out what we want to talk about, what we’re looking for, is…

How do we find the right people who can help us with those conversations?

We’re going to jump in on the LinkedIn side of things. LinkedIn is not an open database. Just because I do a search for a person’s name and that person is on LinkedIn does not mean I will see that person showing up in my network of search results when I search for a particular set of criteria or even by person name. If I am not connected enough, I won’t actually get to see them. So it’s really important to be connecting to people in the right industries, at the right level with the right kinds of titles and things.

Again, I’m going to come back to Kristen, as a recruiter. I’d love to have her walk through the search process of how to go about doing that same sort of step by step, filter by filter to share from the other side of the picture how that works from a recruiter

Just from a LinkedIn standpoint, what we would do is we would use the advanced criteria like you did, right?

Let me use a real example. Right now I'm looking for a business project manager for a renewable energy. Many in Southern California, I want to know every single renewable energy, solar wind battery. I also want to know utility oil and gas. So the first thing I do is I do a company search on LinkedIn. I want to know how many companies exist. What most recruiters do is they go right to a people search.

I'm going to look for business and project managers in people. And then they'll work within these companies because I'll highlight the industry. And that's sort of what you're going to miss a lot of contacts. So I do isolated company search, then I find people within those organizations, right? And then what I would do is typically find I don't even limit it by connection. Like, I don't care if I'm connected to them or not, I'm going to find a way to get to them, right?

Recruiters use LinkedIn in a very different way. So you have to also understand, like when you're asking for people to give you introductions via LinkedIn, understand how pure of a user they are, how well they know their network, right? Because sometimes it's uncomfortable. I only know them because they came up in a search 10 years ago, right? So it wouldn't be inappropriate intro. But anyway, so then I have a list of candidates. Problem is, LinkedIn doesn't just give you phone numbers and emails. So what I do then is I actually go through and I look up. I prioritize ABC contacts and I'd go up and I'd find corporate headquarter numbers.

I have a bucket of tools that help me find people's personal emails or working hours, or I go to their website and I find their domain address like the needed dot com and I find a format. Usually it's first dot last at DeVita dot com. You can verify an email format and there's email verifiers, you know everybody's email address at that company.

So I think the best way to stand out as a candidate if I'm looking to apply for a job would not be to apply for the job. Eight thousand other people are going to do that. The best thing would be to find the hiring manager. Let's say it's the CFO. I find his phone number on the corporate website. He's going to have an aggressive admin. You're going to have to be prepared for that. I also find his email format, and I'll send a personal note right now. In my instance, it's recruiting and I'm looking to recruit Bob.

In your instance, it might be "I just want to have a meeting because I've done research and I am interested in your organization", right? Here's a little section on LinkedIn when I'm looking at somebody's profile and I'll say people that knew this profile also viewed and it will give people within the organization people they're connected to. I'll also look through and I'll see their recommendations, so I'll go down to that level. The groups they're involved with.

Sometimes I'll even join the group like I want to join Project Management and Renewable Energy Group. That's how intense I'll get with LinkedIn. And again, I'd say 80 percent of my candidates come from there.

- Kristen Kenton, President & Executive Recruiter at Kenton Talent Management  

So again, from the other side, from your perspective as an individual, how do you get conversations going with the people that you want to talk to?

Figure out, “Who do I want to be working for? What kind of size of industry, what kind of companies if you’re working in renewable energy because you want to be seen doing something great for the planet?” Excellent example.

Customize your LinkedIn connection request

The first thing you want to do, the only goal you have is to get a reply back. You just want to get a person, especially if you don’t already know them to reply back to you. You can do that in a variety of different ways. We’re going to talk about that. What you’re not trying to do is tell them, Hey, I’m looking for a job in your company, and I know that you are connected in to the right kind of people. And I was wondering if I could just talk to you about that might seem like a really great idea. However, it will get you nowhere, so we don’t recommend doing that particular approach. The other thing is figuring out how you’re going to pique the curiosity of that other person thinking about pulling on heartstrings, something a little bit emotional, something evocative that will get them to stop, think and be intrigued enough to reply back.

So openers the subject of it. The first line of it needs to be both relevant and compelling. And don’t forget to figure out what’s going to be a benefit to them for having a conversation with you and then ultimately coming up with the next step.

So let’s talk about how that looks on LinkedIn. The first thing you would have to do if you don’t already know this person is connection request. So in that we always remind you is that you have to put a personal message in your invitation to connect leaving this blank. Just it’s either going to take a lot longer or it’s never going to happen.

Making clear to them what it is that you’re going to talk about in the in the customer invitation to connect to the request to connect it could be something as simple as I saw. Your LinkedIn profile was recommended to me and your background looks very impressive. I would value a conversation to discuss if you read something about their profile that piqued your interest, which you do have to learn about the person, what groups they’re interested in, who they have been. 

3 ways to start your connection request

There are three different ways to think about connecting on LinkedIn:

  • One, of course, is a straight up connection request.
  • The second is an email where if you’re only a third connection, you won’t necessarily be able to do a direct connection request, but you would be able to send them an email through LinkedIn.
  • And then the other thing that Christine mentioned, which is an excellent way to reach out to a whole lot of people directly, is in groups.

So joining LinkedIn groups that have the common interests of the things that you are targeting as well. Industry related groups is a great way to do that. These are three different ways to come at that. You can get directly to a person much easier through a group and mentioning the group interaction and commonality. There’s already a sense of a commonality when you’re both in the same groups and it feels a little bit more comfortable and a little bit more warm and inviting.

That’s why these particular strategies will help you, especially the groups. How do you get that connection request is also about focusing on things that you’re impressed with with that other person, things that you have in common, like groups, areas of discussion that you might talk about, and then ultimately proposing a day or time that you would want to talk with them or have available to talk with them one week out will be connected through this group.

They like to read things very quickly. And so you have to make it a little bit formatted in order for them to be able to skim quickly, get to the point and making sure that you include your time zone and times that you have available so they can easily respond and say Tuesday the two works great 30 minutes is awesome.

I can’t overemphasize number one, do not use links like Calendly inside of LinkedIn. People will not click on them at all, and they will completely turn off from any future conversation with you if you put a cowardly link to be efficient into your conversations on LinkedIn.

Number two putting in the time zone so important if you’re connecting with people across the United States or certainly across the world, you have to really emphasize that east west and when they respond back, you have to reiterate that because more often than not, they’re not paying attention and they’re assuming you’re talking about their time. Another good trick is to put in their time zone, so three p.m. MST.

So look at their profile enough to know where they’re actually at in the world and put things into their perspective. Make it easy for them. What do you talk about? You finally get them to agree to a conversation with you. What should you talk about? Well, coming back to what are you impressed with about them? A proud moment that they can relate to. That’s in a similar area of expertise. That is your proud moment. And then ultimately, how you can help them and how they can help you. You want to make sure that you’re getting into two way conversations that are mutually beneficial.

What not to talk about during the conversation

Here’s what not to talk about on that first conversation. 

  • Job posts at their company. “I see you’ve got a job post at your company.” Don’t talk about it.
  • Sour relationships at your company. “You know, I met this company and things are going really bad. My boss sucks and everything’s really horrible.” Don’t discuss that either, because it’s going to reflect upon the other person that this is how you talk about others and they will be part of that conversation soon as well.
  • Politics, religion, diversity challenges. I would highly recommend avoiding these.
 I think these are really hot topics that are negatively charged. For the most part, it’s it’s like really difficult to get to a win win on any of these.

Getting to future conversations

One of the key ways to do that for future conversations is getting to know each other. So we know where they live in the community, what they love to do. We might know something about their career. Oftentimes, children is is a is a kind of a tier two level conversation you might step into after maybe 15 or 20 minutes. Geography and community is the easy thing, and career is the second easy thing.

Then, the rest of these follow the more difficult things to think about and remember: What information would they like to get?

  • Information about what
  • Invitations to what
  • Introductions to whom

Coffee conversations

So overall, you’ll have coffee conversations. They will oftentimes turn into informational meetings that can lead to opportunities so they might start this way and lead into this way. Here’s how you would go about doing that:

  • Figuring out what are their goals. Understanding what are they doing on it, what’s coming up this quarter, what is some of the biggest things that they have planned this quarter or this year, annual goals, quarterly goals.
  • Learning about their challenges. What are some of the challenges around arriving at those big picture goals, things that are not working hurdles they’re running into people that aren’t delivering not necessarily by name, but more of it by area type of issues. “You know, my scrum masters are really struggling with the new software that we implemented. We’ve got to get back to using JIRA. It didn’t work what we tried, et cetera, et cetera.” So challenges that’s keeping them from achieving their big goals, sharing your proud moment, doing these kinds of things previously.
  • Sharing similar proud moment. “Here’s one of the things that we found that was really helpful. My team did this and we were able to achieve these kinds of results with metrics, numbers one, two and three. So giving them something that they can remember when we doubled our productivity in less than 30 days and we did it with this one amazing piece of software.” You’re going to want to know what software and how do they implement that.
  • Picking two interests out of those four C’s and three I’s figuring out a couple of interests, any out of any of those seven.
  • Recapping at the end of your conversation. “Here’s some of the things that I came away with from our conversation, and I’d love to set another time to talk with you a little bit more about that. So your action, your timing? Would that be OK with you?” 

Things to include about you and ask about them

  • Geography. That’s easy!
  • Target industries.
  • Describing your work history, but obviously not in a resumé fashion, but really things that you love to do.
  • Types of organizations you enjoy working with.
  • Notable achievements with your expertise and value.
  • Future aspirations

Enjoy the conversations. The most important thing out of all of this is don’t make this a drudgery activity that you’re going to then not want to do on a weekly basis. Figure out how you’re going to enjoy the conversation by learning cool things about interesting people and make sure you’re connecting with those kinds of people to start with.

Be intentional about next steps and make sure you get a two way warm introduction. So who can I introduce you to? Who could you introduce me to? What might I share with you? Once every three months that you’re going to continue to reach out to these people, there’s no point in doing all this amazing work.

A once every three months touch is a good one for some people who are really helpful and you’re going to be doing something fun and fantastic, you know, once a month might be more appropriate.

This is partly why we put together the Career Connects platform is to help you do these different pieces of what we talked about. Discover your story, create your target list, build your personal brand toolbox, which includes housing those scripts in there, developing your strategies to attract your ideal interactions for whatever your personal purpose is. Figuring out how and prompting you and reminding you to expand your brand through the power of social media, even beyond LinkedIn. So within the platform, we help you to do that.

Automating your connections, community interactions, putting all of that together, getting expert support any time you need it. That’s what we built this whole platform for. We’re here to help connect you and widen your network. Just let us know how we can help!

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