March 19, 2015

Networking Advice: How to Best Use LinkedIn

By: Peter Redpath

Not enough of you are networking through LinkedIn. Think about it. Why do people sign up for LinkedIn when pretty much everyone is already on Facebook? Because they want to remember yet another password?

LinkedIn-LogoPeople are on LinkedIn for one of two reasons. They either are unemployed and looking for work or they’re worried that one day they’re going to be unemployed and looking for work. Basically, they’ve joined the LinkedIn for insurance purposes so they can have all of their professional connections listed in one convenient place should an emergency arise. That means they’re more likely to be helpful to you, since you may be in a position to return the favor one day. And unlike Facebook, where you may have your account frozen for contacting total strangers, LinkedIn encourages the practice by encouraging you to link to others through your other connections and associations.

So what should you do? First, create an account and lift the job descriptions from your resume to build your profile. Then search for friends of yours and link to them. Next join the alumni group from your undergraduate institution, and any graduate schools you’ve attended. Then join groups you identify with like The Federalist Society group, The Heritage Foundation group, your local political party group, etc. Once you’ve done that, take a look and check out where your friends work, other alums work, fellow Heritage Foundation group members work, etc.

Find the commonalities and start emailing total strangers. Something like: “Please excuse this email from a total stranger, but I noticed that you’re a Resident Scholar at the Hudson Institute working on national defense. As a fellow University of Dallas alum interested in working on national defense issues, could you please recommend some other organizations I should consider applying to when I relocate to Washington, DC next month? I’m trying to get a good jump start and prove that one can still do something useful with a liberal arts degree! I look forward to hearing back from you.”

The idea is to let the recipient know a little about yourself, what you’re looking for and ask him if he might be kind enough to share advice, job leads, etc. Keep it short and sweet and don’t ever ask someone for a job directly. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask how someone got where he is and for advice about places you should consider applying. From what people who use LinkedIn regularly tell me, you can expect a 25% response rate. Only 25%? Hey, direct mail is 1-2% and that’s considered successful!

Isn’t this embarrassing? No, embarrassing is going out in public wearing a “Dennis Kucinich for President” t-shirt or standing in line at Best Buy and purchasing the Jersey Shore: The Complete Series pack. There’s absolutely no shame in being proactive in your networking or job search. Well, what about those 75% who don’t respond? Don’t worry about them!

Basically, if they’re too lazy or busy to respond, they’re not going to have the energy to memorize your name. And the ones who do respond are pure platinum and tend to be the most helpful people around. Remember, you’ve got to put yourself out there! I know many people who’ve made valuable contacts and even found their jobs by using LinkedIn. If you’re not on LinkedIn, click here to get linked up right now

Next week: The single most effective networking/job hunting technique you can utilize.


Peter Redpath is Vice President and Director of the Student Division at the Federalist Society. This is the fourth reprint in a series, based on his remarks at the AFF Networking Lunch in November 2012.