By Alyson Weiss

1. Digitize Your Existing Network.

The first step to expanding your network is to connect to your already-existing network to provide a clear path to target contacts. Search for family members, friends, and current and former coworkers or import your email contacts (Network -> Add Connections) to build your network.

NEVER send the generic connection invitation--it will look like spam (see more on what to say below).

Just like a friend or coworker might introduce you to a key contact at a networking event or at a social gathering, introductions between mutual contacts are always more successful than cold contacts.

Once you have connected to your network on LinkedIn, organize them! Use the tag function to sort people either by how you met them ("Toastmasters", "Grad School") or how they will function for you ("Connector", "Hiring Manager"). You can find tags by going to Connections and hovering over individual people's names.

2. Target the Exact Person You Would Like to Speak to through Advanced Search & Groups.

One of the beautiful things about LinkedIn is that it transforms your vague idea of who you would like to talk to ("someone in marketing at a nonprofit in Boston") into a specific name.

Use the Advanced Search by company or keyword to find your strongest key connections - namely your second degree connections (connections of your connections) who work in the department of the company you want to work for. Then, reach out to them in the way that makes the most sense: ask a mutual contact to facilitate an introduction, email them if they have an address listed, or send a direct message through a Group.

Sending a message through a group is a free alternative to InMail, but it's a little hidden. Here's a guide to it:
1. Go to Interests -> Groups in your top menu on LinkedIn.
2. Choose the name of the group you have in common with your target connection (if you and your target connection do not have any groups in common, consider joining one JUST for this function. You can leave it at any time!
3. Click on the number of members of the group in the top right corner.
4. Use the search function to find the name of your target connection.
5. Click the small "send message" button under their name.

3. Research Your Field Through Company Pages & Groups.

Check out "How You Are Connected" and "Careers" on company pages.
Join relevant groups to network with individuals (see point #2) or participate in discussions to cast a wide net and stay current in your industry knowledge. If you're struggling to create a list of target companies, ask a relevant group for advice. This way, you'll research and network all at once!

4. Write a Compelling Message.

Once you have identified the correct person to contact, make sure to send a message that is concise and clear. You want to shoot for 2-3 lines of text that clearly identifies who you are, why you are contacting them, and what you would like the next steps to be. Ask a mutual contact to pass this message along if it makes sense.
Alyson Weiss was the Social Media Specialist at CareerSolution. She offered tutorials on how to turn online procrastination into proactive professional engagement. For questions about this post, or to make an appointment with our new Specialist, Katherine, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Note: This article is an excerpt from a previously-published post, Linking You to Your Future: 9 Steps to LinkedIn Wizardry.

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