You’re finished setting up your amazing LinkedIn profile and are ready to start adding connections. Inevitably you ask yourself, “Who should I connect with?” The simple answer is, you should connect with more people than you probably think.
Start with friends and family
Naturally, you should connect with all of your friends, family friends, and family members. Nothing too crazy or complicated here. You should also connect with anyone that you know from a volunteer organization (such as a non-profit you’ve volunteered with or your church). There is nothing awkward about connecting with these people. They all know you to some extent and will accept your connection request 95% of the time.
Don’t limit these connections to only people you have a deep personal relationship with. It’s 100% okay and non-awkward to connect with people you’ve only had a handful of conversations with.
Connect with alumni
LinkedIn has a very powerful tool to slice and dice the alumni at your school. Just search for your school and you will be able to sort by company, industry, job function, graduation year, etc. Alumni will naturally be receptive to connecting with you. However, don’t just connect with every alumnus willy-nilly. Be thoughtful about whom you connect with and always ask yourself: “Why do I want to connect with this person?” We recommend connecting with alumni that you respect, that have done something you want to do, or are in a field that interests you.
Most of these connections will be “cold requests”. In other words, you’ve probably never met this person before. Therefore, when you send the request, make sure you include a brief note like:
“Hi Susie – I’m a fellow alumnus of XYZ College and would like to connect. I’ve enjoyed the articles you’ve published on ABC Topic and would love to stay up-to-date on your new ideas.”
The best part about asking to connect with alumni is that they tend to be more receptive to connecting with and helping you because you have something in common: the same college. That alone creates a bond. Having alumni in your network is vital; they understand what it is like to be in your shoes and want to help you succeed. (See “Email Best Practices & Tips” for more tips on writing a great email)
Connect with people at companies you want to work at
This can be a bit tricky but very worth it. The point of these connections is to set up an informational interview. Make sure the people you connect with are doing something similar to what you want to do. As with alumni, you need to include a brief note with your LinkedIn invitation. It could be as simple as:
“Hi Susie – I am a student at XYZ college and am looking to work in ABC Job Function. I would love to connect and possibly set up a time to chat with you for 15 minutes about your experience at DEF Company and in the ABC Job Function.”
Your hit rate with these people will probably be around 50%. Many people will accept your invitation but never write back to you. If they do connect, wait a week or so before you private message them. In the private message, you can say something like:
“Hi Susie – Thank you for connecting with me. I was wondering if you have 15 minutes to chat about your experience at DEF Company and the ABC Job Function there. I’m free any time this week or next week for a call if you’re available.”
Although the idea of connecting with random alumni or people may seem creepy from your end, the other party doesn’t feel that way. Plus, if the person doesn’t want to connect, they can just say no. No harm, no foul.
New connections equal new opportunities
We can’t express it enough – LinkedIn is an amazing tool that can benefit you immensely. However, it is on you to start those conversations and build the relationship with your new connections.