How to Build a Meaningful Professional Network

Michelle Markelz
2016 AMA Collegiate
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Key Takeaways
What? LinkedIn is an imperative for professionals in today’s job market.

So what? Some best practices can boost your profile and introduce you to opportunities you may not have known about otherwise.

Now what? Make connections that will open doors for you in the future.

A strong professional network can be the door to your dream job and the window to opportunities you would have otherwise missed. 

Your professional network can get you in the door and on the mind of the decision makers and influencers who can help you make the lateral and vertical moves to advance your career. Despite the obvious benefits of networking, only 13% of millennials are on LinkedIn. President of recruitment services company Successful Impressions Stacie Garlieb's advice: “Be part of the 13%.”

Connect Widely, But Use Discretion

LinkedIn is not just a useful tool for professional networking these days, it’s a must-have, Garlieb says. If you’re just starting to build your network, connect widely but use discretion. Anyone you know personally who could be the president of a company one day, mentors, fellow AMA chapter members and supervisors are a great place to start. 


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If you’d like to connect with a strategically important person but don’t already know them, see consider asking a second-level or third-level connection to introduce you. Professors, mentors, and superiors you have worked with in the past may recognize you if you didn’t have a close working relationship, so be sure to send a customized note (not one of LinkedIn’s auto generated messages) explaining who you are and why you’d like to connect. Reaching out without precedent can be a misstep Garlieb says. “If you wouldn’t do it in a social situation, don’t do it in a professional situation.

Accepting invitations to connect on LinkedIn can require less screening than on other platforms, such as Facebook, but be wary of users looking to connect only to build up their networks for ulterior motives, Garlieb says. Recruiters may target college students just to build a reputation with that demographipc.

LinkedIn Dos and Don’ts

Garlieb says a few best practices are necessary to get your profile noticed by recruiters and past the screening process.

  • DO update your profile at least every 90 days

  • DO request recommendations that show your diverse strengths

  • DO follow companies you’re interested in working for

  • DO join groups and engage appropriately

  • DON’T request to connect with someone you are going to interview with or have interviewed with until you’ve shown performance on the job

  • DON’T use generic language to describe your work experience

  • DON’T forget to upload a professional photo

  • DON’T create a network for volume; be strategic

Author Bio:

 
Michelle Markelz
Michelle Markelz is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. She can be reached at mmarkelz@ama.org.
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