Becky Anderson

Rebecca B. Andersen

A lifetime member of The Optical Society, Rebecca B. Andersen is the director of public relations at OSA and an adjunct professor of integrated marketing communications and public relations at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. Andersen loves working in the optical sciences because of its innovation and wonderful people.

Before you dive too far into this article, take a minute to close your eyes and imagine yourself five, ten or fifteen years from today. Where do you want to be professionally? This can feel like a trick question, because sometimes the answer is “not in this job,” or “in your job,” or “at a bigger, better opportunity elsewhere.”

When you do take the time to think through these milestones, is your next question, “How am I going to get there?” I hope so—because that sense of direction is crucial to making the most of career-building resources, including LinkedIn.

A changing platform

When LinkedIn launched 15 years ago, it was merely an online resume repository and a gateway to virtual networking. Since then, LinkedIn has continuously enhanced its offerings—transforming into a complete career-management resource with over 400 million users worldwide.

Today’s technology landscape has projected us further. Disruptive technologies—such as Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality/Mixed Reality, social networks, new influencers—are changing how we interact on a daily basis and how we communicate. However, for many, the mindset about how to use LinkedIn has not evolved as quickly as the product. If you haven’t changed your approach to LinkedIn since the first time you created a profile, then you’re missing out on some of the biggest benefits of the platform.

LinkedIn offers a number of tutorials detailing best practices in creating a professional profile. Once you have the profile, the next step is making it work for you. How can you network through LinkedIn to get that next professional opportunity? Who do you already know who has the position that you hope to attain? Who do you want to know who can move your career 15 years into the future?

Five tips for using your LinkedIn network

  1. Build your numbers. The number of connections you have on LinkedIn matters. Remember, the more first-degree connections you have, the more second- and third-degree connections you have, making you literally one connection away from millions of people.

    This is important because LinkedIn is a massive search engine in which you’ll only show up in your first-, second- and third-degree connections’ searches. If you’re not connected with individuals at these levels, you won’t come up in their search results. So, if you want to be found on LinkedIn, strategically build up your number of first-degree connections. This will exponentially increase the likelihood that LinkedIn search algorithms will find you and place you near the top of search results.
     
  2. Seek out your best prospects. The first step in the process is to conduct a highly targeted “Advanced Search.” With a free account, you can search for prospects using keywords, filtering your relationship level, identifying your prospects location and choosing up to one group. Use this opportunity to drill down and find people that you want to get to know. Your goal is to find the people whom you are most likely to do business with or collaborate with professionally. Once you type in your parameters, you can generate a search by selecting the search icon at the bottom.
     
  3. Find a new professional “friend.” Groups are one of the most powerful networking tools on LinkedIn. OSA dedicates time and resources to cultivating our LinkedIn Technical Groups as a member benefit. When people see you in groups and interact with you over time, they will be more likely to connect with you. After you have identified the influential people in these groups, you then need to approach them. Finding connections through this method will ensure that you are contacting experts in the field, which also generally means that their opinions carry some weight.
     
  4. Sharing is caring. Once you feel comfortable posting and sharing to a group, one of LinkedIn's most underutilized features is the “LinkedIn Status Update” (also called your “Network Update”) in your LinkedIn profile. This is one of the best ways to stay in front of your target audience on a consistent basis. When used correctly, these little messages pack a big punch. Your status update “block” is a white box located just below your picture on your homepage. Whenever you share an update, your message is then broadcasted to all of your network connections.
     
  5. Closing the deal. Through LinkedIn, networking can be done from behind the comfort of your desk. But that doesn’t mean that in-person networking is less important today than it was 15 years ago.

    When you meet someone whom you are interested in learning more about professionally, how do you follow-up and keep the dialogue going? Don’t wait for a week to pass before you send them a personalized LinkedIn connection request; contact them the same day before your head lands on your pillow. Similar to a consumer brand, staying top of mind is important to growing your network with influencers who will support you along the way in your career.

Keeping it growing

Professional networking is a gateway to getting to know more people and increasing your career prospects. The more people there are in your network, the better your chances. To grow your network, you need to dedicate some time to it every day. Consider spending an average of 20-30 minutes daily finding new people whom you would like to connect with, and approach them. Bear in mind that networking doesn’t just mean finding new connections; it also means catching up with old connections and slowly developing relationships.

To become a “master of networking,” it is important to understand that it’s not just about you.  If you’re interested in presenting yourself as an educated professional, then you need to step up your game and start adding value to your network. Answer questions posted online, write your own articles, share your knowledge and make it your goal to help others in your industry move forward with their careers. This, in turn, will help you move forward to the next phase of your career.

Looking to grow your network and learn more? Connect with me at Scatterings image Becky Andersen and Scatterings image @Becky_Andersen.