Do's (& lots of don'ts) on connecting with LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a fabulous tool for use in your career development however there are some ground rules that I suggest you follow to ensure you get the most out of it. LinkedIn can:

  • Act as a database for the contacts and connections you have made (you can even add notes to include where you met them and other factoids)

  • Update you on the status of your connections, whether they have changed jobs, received a promotion or much more.

  • Act as a professional article aggregator: if you follow interesting people or groups, you can be exposed to some great articles, tips and resources that you may not have otherwise come across.

  • Help you find job listings that fit your expertise and experience.

  • Connect you to interesting people that you may never meet and utilize their expertise & knowledge.

& much more... Many people use LinkedIn to connect to people they may not know very well. These are people that they may have briefly met at a networking event or just found on LinkedIn through connections or the search function. Here are some words of advice when connecting to people on LinkedIn: 1. Always be courteous! This sounds like this should be a given, but I have had numerous interactions with people who hadn't given much thought to how they were phrasing their messages to me. If you don't know someone (or don't know someone well), I would err to the side of very respectful. It is difficult to perceive how someone will read a message (this is a common issue with email as well) and you want to ensure the person will want to reply - Make it easy for them to do so! 2. If English is your second language - have someone proof read your message. It's awesome being bilingual! But it comes with some annoying side effects. Often ESL speakers are unaware of how to "package" their requests and may come across very forceful or aggressive. If you are embarking on a person-finding expedition on LinkedIn, I would suggest getting a friend to proof read your template message to people so that you do not inadvertently come across differently then you intend to. MOST IMPORTANTLY: 3. NEVER EVER connect with someone you do not know... unless you send them a message as part of the connection request. Unless I know someone very well, I always send a message with the connection request. Many professionals, myself included, use LinkedIn as a repository for our professional contacts. These are incredibly valuable, both to them and to me. I want to maintain a good relationship with all of my contacts and do not want to do anything to jeopardize this. If someone connects to me, they get second level access to my contacts -- meaning, theoretically, you could utilize the common connection to connect to them. I do not want to ruin my connections by inadvertently connecting them to people who may annoy or harass them. I NEVER CONNECT WITH ANYONE I DO NOT KNOW IF THEY HAVE NOT SENT ME A MESSAGE. Sure, you can be a total psycho and send me a message and I will accept you into my network, but at least I have *some* evidence to prove that you are a normal person! This rule means: Never connect with people on LinkedIn on mobile app platforms. They automatically send a connection invite without giving you the chance to formulate a message. Always send a connection request from the full webpage, where you get the chance to send it with a message (it even prompts you to do so!). What to do if you send a connection accidentally without sending a message? I would send them a follow up message apologizing for connecting with them without sending a message. Use this as a last resort though! If you have a free LinkedIn account, you no longer have the ability to send InMails to people you are not connected to and you will need to subscribe to the paid "Job Seeker" level to be able to send InMails (and you only get 3 InMails a month - but can cough up more $$ to buy more!!). What do I say in the message? Introduce yourself and mention why you are connecting with them. It only has to be a sentence and doesn't even need to demand anything from them. For example: "Dear X, I am a postdoctoral/graduate scientist at XY and am exploring careers outside of academia. I came across your profile and was very interested in your career progression. Do you mind if I connect with you to follow your career and gain advice from your profile? Thanks Y" Note: you can absolutely ask for an informational interview in this message! There is a template of the message you can use for that in this post. Please do not:

  • Ask them to refer you to a position - they aren't going to do that! They don't know you. Would you refer your friends to a restaurant you have never tried? No. So why would anyone risk their professional brand to get you a job?

  • Ask them about openings at your company. That is what the internet is for.

  • Ask for the contact of a hiring manager, again, you can do that when you have establish contact and completed an informational interview, not before. There is no reason for them to divulge that information to you (again risking their professional relationships and brand).

  • Ask for them to review your resume. Again, wait until you have formally engaged them in an informational interview and they have gotten to know you. Reviewing resumes can take a lot of time, which everyone is lacking.

  • Get aggressive if they do not have time for your request or do not wish to do it. It just reflects badly on you. Thank them for their time and that's it.

LinkedIn is a truly powerful resource, but don't abuse it! If you behave as if the person on the screen is in front of you, you should be fine! Good luck and Happy Linking!

#PhD #LinkedIn #JobSearch

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