Connecting with people and creating links between you and a variety of professionals is the essence of networking. Given the fast pace of our everyday lives, it becomes more and more difficult to have the time and opportunity to sit and connect with people face-to-face. And what about connecting with people out-of-state and around the world” We live in a global community, so platforms such as LinkedIn allow us to take networking to a whole new level.
Moving Your Network Online
LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to move your network online. This isn”t just a platform to store all of their valuable contact information. LinkedIn is much more than a contact database. When you send someone an email through your contact management system (like Outlook or iMail), do you have the ability to see other people in their network” The answer is no.
That is why LinkedIn is more than a database. It is a networking tool. You can see their connections and they can see yours. This transparency allows you to truly support one another when you don”t have time to sit down for a cup of coffee. You can do research on companies, employers, clients and resources and then invite people into your network or introduce one connection to another. We think many of you realize what a small world we really live in, but spending a little time on LinkedIn will truly show you the interconnectivity of our business world.
Building The Brand Of You
Not only does LinkedIn allow you to make connections; it gives you a platform to build your brand ” The Brand of You. The LinkedIn process begins with your profile, which gives you the opportunity to present your resume online. When setting up your profile on LinkedIn make sure you:
- Include a professional image of yourself – no wedding or prom photos. Invest in a professional headshot.
- Fill in your relevant work experience – stay away from using “looking for work” phrases in the current status. Think of action-driven, goal-oriented phrases.
- Grow the number of your connections – invite those that you met or worked with in the past to join your network. Be sure to send short but informational invites: how/where you met, what you are looking for etc.
Once you have your profile complete, you can then express your gratitude to various connections and write recommendations or simply validate their skills and areas of expertise. And hopefully your connections will do the same for you. When asking for or providing recommendations remember:
- The people you recommend reflect The Brand of You. People will hold you accountable for those you recommend, so make sure you stand behind your testimonials and can truly vouch for the skills and areas of expertise your are promoting.
- Only ask for recommendations from people who truly know your skills. Don”t put someone who barely knows you in the awkward position of recommending you if they have never worked with you.
- Follow up. Leaving a valuable recommendation takes time, so if someone hasn”t gotten to it in a week or so, send them a follow up message. Perhaps send along skills or work experience you are asking for a recommendation for. Make it easy for them.
LinkedIn also gives you a platform for thought leadership. You have the ability to comment on subject matters and share resources. You can add images, presentations and other content-rich materials to again build your brand and demonstrate your areas of interest and expertise. What a great way for interior designers to make their portfolio available to the world! Your network has access to it and can direct attention to your profile or introduce you to key contacts. When building your brand through thought leadership consider:
- Joining like-minded groups.
- Initiating discussions on topics you feel comfortable leading a debate in.
- Posting updates rich in content: share links to valuable sites, or link specific connections within your post (by starting to type their name) to bring them into the conversation.
Making The Most Of LinkedIn
As we said earlier, LinkedIn is a great way to move your network and your brand online. You still have to find the time to connect with people face-to-face, but LinkedIn gives you additional ways to build your brand and your network. For those of you afraid of technology, you have to get over it…and for those of you scared of meeting people in person, you have to get over that too. Together, traditional networking and online tools such as LinkedIn give you a more comprehensive approach to sharing The Brand of You and achieving your goals.
If you are on Linkedin – good for you! Use the tips we have mentioned to keep strengthening your brand and be sure to connect with us. And if you aren”t on LinkedIn, there is no time like the present, right” Start building your profile and growing The Brand of You online–today!
Aga Artka, Allied ASID, LEED AP, and Jenny Schrank, Allied ASID, work together to educate and motivate young design professionals to take charge of their lives and build careers of their dreams. They started a career building newsletter and are working on a career development publication, which is planned to be released in 2014.
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