Networking and LinkedIn: The MBA Way
Scrolling away on social media is a favourite pastime for many people today as they continue to post pictures, videos, and other personal information about themselves on their profiles. But just as important, or perhaps even more so than social networking, is professional networking. However, like any conscious effort at networking, social media networking, too, takes time, commitment and understanding of the environment. For our first lesson, we’re going to take a look at LinkedIn – widely and rightfully, considered to be the best platform for professional networking in the world.
Understanding how to navigate the environment and making the most of the platform’s functionalities is crucial to taking full advantage of its networking opportunities.
Here are a few tips on how to, and how not to use LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is Essential
First and foremost, make sure you have a LinkedIn profile as it is essential for any MBA graduate who is serious enough about networking.
The very fact that you have an account on the platform will cross the most important box, but also push you to visit and update it. LinkedIn has a certain functionality, which creates a shadow account in your stead. So, even if you haven’t registered on the network, existing info on the web will generate a profile for you once you’ve been invited to join by peers who have a LinkedIn profile.
Think of this as good motivation to assume control of your own story-telling experience. Take the time to input all the necessary info until the progress bar on the right-hand side has reached “All-Star” status.
Don’t leave your LinkedIn profile stagnant. Log into your profile regularly and explore the different functionalities. Set yourself a goal to visit at least once per week and spend around 15 minutes on each session. Use this time to make regular updates to your LinkedIn profile. Include all relevant and recent professional activities. Make use of LinkedIn’s functions to include details regarding specific projects on the job, details about what you have studied during your MBA, and highlights from your professional experiences, such as a seminar that you’ve attended, a certificate that you’ve recently acquired and any and all prestigious organisations that you have worked with.
Make sure you insert relevant information worded accurately and descriptively in all relevant fields, but don’t be too wordy. Assume that your profile’s visitors know what you’re talking about. This builds status and sends a humble nod to your network at the same time.
You need to show activity on LinkedIn and regularly scan and identify key opinion leaders, join communities, and find the decision-makers in your particular field. Join communities which are relevant to your professional field or to your professional aspirations. If you are a marketing professional, then identify and join relevant branding, advertising and digital marketing communities. Make the extra effort and start following key businesses with large market shares in the field, or emerging start-ups with lots of promise.
Attempt to engage with opinion leaders and other members on the platform by making relevant comments on their posts, and then possibly engage in direct communication after you have made yourself known.
Networking requires proactivity. If leisure time on Facebook allows you to be a passive consumer, networking on LinkedIn requires you to be an active participant.
Expensive things are expensive for a reason (most of the time). LinkedIn has a premium membership option, which unlocks extra functionalities for those who want to invest actual money in their professional online presence. The platform currently offers four paid plans. The second cheapest of those is principally aimed at individuals who want to engage in networking. The subscription plan is called Business Plus and all of its four premium features are of interest to networking-oriented professionals – the ability to use advanced search (including filters for faster and more relevant results) and access to the in-platform mailing system are the two most important functionalities.
The fee can be steep (€44,99 per month), but that only depends on whether or not you see networking as part of your overall career approach. Whether you see value in the returns is also conditional – again – depending on whether or not you think networking is important enough to you to “pay for it”. What you will undoubtedly get is more options, more channels of communication and more visibility to head-hunters and decision-makers.
Don’t Overdo It
While you are supposed to be proactive, there is such a thing as too much. It’s important not to overdo or overstretch your networking efforts. That can make you seem annoying.
Do not comment on everything you perceive as relevant or important. Observe and save your opinion for the things that matter.
Do not initiate in conversation with opinion leaders at awkward times and places. Follow the conversations, bide your time and stay discreet.
Remember that the first impression is often the last impression.
Demonstrate your knowledge and soft skills in accordance with the platform and the unwritten rules of social media. Thoroughly explore the platform’s functionalities and observe how opinion leaders use it. Follow decision-makers on as many other platforms as possible and resort to an InMail only when you think you’re ready with a well-defined strategy of what you want from them and what you can give in return.
Remember – this is the Internet – it has its own rules and you have to follow them if you want to make the best of it.
Networking is an essential part of the MBA experience. Explore its many benefits in this roundup and find out how it can help you achieve your goals: 5 Reasons Why Networking Matters