Your Professional Piggybank: Five ways to build a network that will be there when you need it most

Roughly 80% of U.S. adults use social media but the average member spends only ten minutes per day on LinkedIn. Why? The truth is that we don’t think much about job search while gainfully employed and building a professional network takes a lot more work than scrolling cat memes. To challenge that mindset, try thinking of LinkedIn as a professional piggybank. Just like savings, it will grow over time and be there when you need it, but only if you invest.

LinkedIn is dynamic – it never stops moving. Neither do successful networkers.

Commit to investing
Strong networkers understand the importance of making connections and investing in relationships. Connections determine the strength of your network, and LinkedIn is no different. LinkedIn requires an ongoing investment to maintain and grow your network so it will be there when you need it most. Keep your profile updates and make professional networking part of your weekly routine so you can leverage your network to support your job search, now and in future.

Build your bank
Where to start? Connect with current and past professional contacts: supervisors, colleagues, vendors, customers, instructors, etc. Start with people you currently know well and work backward from there. Include a personalized message with invitations. Has it been a while? Reiterate how you know one another and that you would like to connect. After your invitation has been accepted, follow up with a direct message to catch up. Nurture existing relationships and build new ones.

Expand your portfolio
Make a list of target companies in which you have an interest or industry connections. Follow all companies on your list – LinkedIn will suggest competitors as well. Join relevant industry, discipline, professional society, and alumni groups to expand your network reach and visibility quickly.

Make smart investments
Recruiters have massive networks and are consistent sources for job leads. Connecting with recruiters who specialize in your industry and/or discipline significantly and quickly extends your networking visibility and reach on LinkedIn. They also understand the industry and your skills. Follow search firm company pages for updates, articles, and opportunities.

Cashing in
According to LinkedIn, referrals are the number one way candidates discover new jobs. When the need arises, you will have a strong network from which to source referrals. Some connections may be able to submit your information directly to hiring authorities while others can assist with contact information so you can market your referred or unsolicited resume appropriately.

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