6 min read

Networking on LinkedIn

Networking on LinkedIn

Let's be real for a second: networking can be awkward. The idea of schmoozing at some stuffy business conference or crafting the perfect cold email is enough to make most people break out in hives. But fear not, my fellow LinkedIn warriors - there's a better way.

According to a recent survey by Censuswide and LinkedIn, almost half of working Americans (47%, to be exact) feel they have no clue what they're doing when it comes to networking. 

And honestly, who can blame them? The whole concept of "building relationships" can feel fake and forced.

But here's the thing: networking doesn't have to be like this. In fact, with a bit of creativity and authenticity, you can turn LinkedIn into your own personal networking playground—no cold emails required.

Let’s talk about it.

Why Networking on LinkedIn Matters (Even If You Hate It)

Before diving into the juicy stuff, let's talk about why networking on LinkedIn matters in the first place. Can't you just share some content and call it a day?

Well, not quite. According to some estimates, jobs are filled anywhere from 50% to 80% through networking. Yep, you read that right - most gigs aren't even advertised publicly. They're handed out behind closed doors to people who know people.

And when it comes to sourcing and vetting job candidates, LinkedIn is the ultimate cheat code. 94% of recruiters use the platform to find their next hire. With over a billion members worldwide, many potential connections (and job opportunities) are at your fingertips.

But here's the catch: networking isn't about collecting connections like they're Pokémon cards. It's not a numbers game. The goal is to build genuine, mutually beneficial relationships over time.

As Catherine Fisher, LinkedIn's VP of Integrated Consumer Communications puts it: "You don't just plant [your network] and then walk away and think it's going to thrive. You actually have to water it. You have to prune it."

In other words, networking is a long game. And if you play your cards right, it can pay off in spades. So, let's talk about how to do it without being a total creep.

5 Non-Cringey Ways to Network on LinkedIn

You don’t have to do everything at once. Just pick one or two and try them out. See how it goes. 

(Probably better than you think.)

1. Keep Your Network Fresh and Relevant 

First things first: take a good, hard look at your current LinkedIn network. Are you connected with everyone you know and trust? Have you followed the industries, companies, and people that actually interest you?

If not, it's time for a bit of spring cleaning. Go through your list and add any missing colleagues, classmates, or professional contacts through your list. Then, do a deep dive into the "People You May Know" section and see if anyone catches your eye.

The goal here isn't to rack up as many connections as possible - it's to curate a network of people relevant to your career goals and interests. Quality over quantity, always.

2. Break the Ice with LinkedIn Games

Okay, I know what you're thinking: "Games? On LinkedIn? What is this, middle school?" But hear me out.

LinkedIn recently rolled out a series of brain teasers and puzzles you can play right in the app. They've got word games, logic puzzles, and even a chess-inspired challenge called "Queens." 

And the best part? You can see which of your connections have played each game and compare scores.

It might sound silly, but these games are a genius way to break the ice and start conversations with people in your network. After you crush a round of Crossclimb, why not shoot a quick message to the coworker who keeps beating your high score? Something like:

"Hey [Name], I see you're dominating Crossclimb lately! How do you always spot the right path so quickly? I'm impressed. Also, while I have you - how's the new gig going? Would love to catch up sometime and hear all about it!"

Boom. Instant conversation starter, with none of the "How's the weather in your neck of the woods?" small talk. Plus, a little friendly competition never hurt anyone, right?

3. Become a Thought Leader (Without Being That Person) 

Want to know a secret? The key to networking on LinkedIn isn't reaching out to people 24/7. It's getting them to come to YOU.

And the best way to do that is by positioning yourself as a thought leader in your industry. But wait, before you go all #ThoughtLeader on us, let me clarify: this isn't about being a pretentious know-it-all. It's about adding value to conversations and showcasing your expertise genuinely and helpfully.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by commenting on other people's posts. And I'm not talking about generic "great post!" comments - I mean insightful, thoughtful responses that move the conversation forward.

For example, let's say someone in your network posts an article about the future of AI in marketing. Instead of just hitting the "like" button, take a minute to share your own experiences or insights on the topic:

"Great read, [Name]! I've been experimenting with AI-powered chatbots for customer service lately, and I've found that the key is striking the right balance between automation and human touch. Curious to hear your thoughts - have you seen any brands doing this particularly well?"

See how that works? You're not just agreeing with the post—you're adding your unique perspective and inviting further discussion. And when you consistently provide valuable insights like this, people start to take notice.

They check out your profile, they follow you for more great content, and eventually, they might even reach out to connect or collaborate. All because you took the time to contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way.

4. Harness the Power of Second-Degree Connections

You know that old saying, "It's not what you know, it's who you know"? Well, on LinkedIn, it's more like, "It's not who you know, it's who THEY know."

Enter second-degree connections. These people are connected to your direct connections but not to you (yet), and they can be an absolute goldmine for networking opportunities.

Let's say you're interested in transitioning into a new industry, like tech. You do a quick search on LinkedIn and find someone who works at your dream company - but alas, they're a second-degree connection. What do you do?

Simple: look for a shared connection with someone who can introduce you. Click on the person's profile and scroll down to the "How You're Connected" section. There, you'll see a list of your mutual connections.

Find someone you know well (and who hopefully knows the person you want to meet well), and shoot them a quick message:

"Hey [Name], I noticed you're connected to [Person] at [Company]. I'm considering moving into the tech industry, and I would love to pick their brain about what skills I should be developing and what their day-to-day looks like. Do you know them well enough to make an intro? I'd really appreciate it!"

Assuming your connection is happy to help (and if they're not, maybe rethink that relationship), they can facilitate an introduction, and voila - you've just expanded your network with a valuable new contact, no cold outreach required.

This strategy works for any industry or role you're interested in. The key is to be specific about what you're hoping to learn and make it as easy as possible for your shared connection to make the introduction.

5. Leverage LinkedIn's AI Writing Assistant

If you have a LinkedIn Premium subscription, you can now access a nifty tool called the "Writing Assistant." This AI-powered feature helps you craft messages, posts, and any other content on the platform.

Now, before you let the robots take over your networking game completely, a word of caution: the Writing Assistant is a tool, not a replacement for your voice and personality, it's there to help you get started and give you ideas, but it's up to you to customize and personalize the content before hitting "send."

For example, let's say you want to contact a thought leader in your industry and invite them to guest on your company's podcast. You could type something like "podcast guest invitation" into the Writing Assistant, and it might spit out a template like this:

"Dear [Name],

I hope this message finds you well. I'm reaching out because I'm a big fan of your work in the [industry] space, and our audiences would love to hear your insights.

I'm currently booking guests for the next season of [Podcast Name], and I would be honored to have you join us for an episode. The podcast focuses on [theme/topic], and I think your expertise in [specific area] would be incredibly valuable for our listeners.

If you're interested, I'd be happy to provide more details on the format, recording process, and promotion plan. We typically record episodes [timeframe], and we're looking to feature guests who can share actionable advice and inspiring stories.

Please let me know if you'd like to discuss this further. I'm happy to accommodate your schedule and make the process as smooth as possible.

Thanks so much for considering, [Name]. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best,

[Your Name]"

It's not bad, right? It has all the key elements of a compelling pitch: personalization, flattery, specificity, and a clear call to action. But it's still a little generic.

To make this pitch stand out, you'd want to add some personal touches and customize it for the person you're contacting. Maybe mention a recent post of theirs that really resonated with you or highlight a shared connection or experience.

The point is, the Writing Assistant can be a helpful starting point, but it's not a substitute for authentic, human connection. Use it as a tool to save time and jumpstart your writing process, but always put your spin on the final product.

The Bottom Line on LinkedIn Networking 

Networking on LinkedIn doesn't have to be a chore. With a bit of creativity and authenticity, you can build meaningful relationships and unlock career opportunities you never knew existed.

The key is to shift your mindset from "What can this person do for me?" to "How can I add value to this person's life or work?" Approach your interactions with genuine curiosity and a desire to learn, not just a thirst for personal gain.

Most importantly, don't be afraid to put yourself out there. The worst thing that can happen is that someone doesn't respond or decline your invitation to connect. But the best thing that can happen is that you forge a new connection, learn something new, or even land your dream job.

So go forth and network! Just remember to be cool, helpful, and yourself. The rest will follow.

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