The Right Way to Use LinkedIn and Manage Your Brand
As a Campus Recruiter for T-Mobile I get invitations to connect every day from students across the country (and world). These invitations tend to fall into three categories: the casual connect where the default message from LinkedIn is used and nothing else, the personal message, and the personal message asking for something. Let’s take a closer look at all three of these.
The casual connect is where you find a person who you would love to connect with. Either because they post/share interesting content, or they work for an employer that you would also like to work for. You pull up their profile and hit connect and don’t do anything else. This is fine but ask yourself how you would respond on the receiving end. When I get these I usually accept because I like students, but no further action is taken by me. Unfortunately, there is nothing memorable about these connections and I’m guilty of forgetting soon after (as are many other recruiters). Think about that the next time you’re on LinkedIn.
The personal message follows this path but does something different. This person takes the time to tell me why they want to connect, and they provide something notable. Maybe they saw something in common when reading my profile, “hey! I like rugby too!” Perhaps they went to the same school as I did or we both worked at the same place. The point is to make the message something that gets me to remember you and want to help you along your journey. A good personal message is the start of an actual professional relationship. Now keep in mind that this isn’t the end of it. In order to build on that newfound connection and actually network you’ll have to stay in touch with that individual. This can be as simple as checking in once a month with an update. “Just wanted to touch base and let you know that I’ve had several informational interviews and am working on my portfolio. What’s new with you?” This is the first step that hopefully will allow you to build upon it.
This leads to the last type of person on LinkedIn: the ASK. This individual will connect and promptly ask you to do something for them, even though they’ve done nothing to earn this respect. This either takes place with their connection message or right after you accept their connection. The ASK can vary but usually entails wanting help with a job or internship, wanting you to connect them with someone else that you know (the means to an end approach, don’t do this), or asking you to put in a good word for them regarding a job at your company. I’m not saying it’s always inappropriate to ASK for these things, but you have to put in the ground work first. You have to earn it. If you have an actual professional relationship with someone it’s perfectly fine to request these things. If this is first contact, it’s very inappropriate. If you’ve done the ASK before, don’t beat yourself up too much. I’ll admit that when I was much younger I was guilty of this. It’s never too late to change your behavior though.
Your LinkedIn profile is a reflection on you and your brand. What do you want employers to see when they pull up your profile? What kind of impression do you want to make when you connect with individuals? As a student nearing graduation (or a recent graduate), it can be tempting to take short cuts. It’s important to resist this urge and put in the time and effort to build meaningful relationships. Trust me, I’ve been at this for years and can honestly say that the people who make themselves unforgettable are the ones who create their own breaks.
I recommend working with your Career Services team to make sure that your profile is professional. It’s also helpful to review other profiles on the platform. Look at what your peers are doing, how about the staff at your school, what about the people you want to connect with? Take the time to study and then incorporate the things you like into your brand.
Remember, you can’t cut corners when it comes to networking and creating your very own personal brand. Make sure that you’re making yourself noteworthy. If you network the right way, opportunities will present themselves to you. You’re about to set forth on the next big adventure in your life. What kind of impression do you want to make?