How to Communicate and Network on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social media site that is primarily used for business purposes. Therefore, your communications and connections should be professional yet authentic to your personality.  Think about how you interact with professors, advisors, project peers, and recruiters, and then translate that style into LinkedIn.  Be proactive with LinkedIn and use its tools to portray your strengths, qualifications, and interests.

Best Practices for Networking on LinkedIn

Keep it professional and concise

Be as clear and brief with your communications as possible so that people will read your material.  Double-check your spelling, grammar, style and tone because your words will be seen by many and represent your attention to detail in communication. Always be respectful, polite, and thankful.

Tailor your connection message

Do not let LinkedIn access all of your contacts to send out spam/generic invites. Instead, you should personalize your message to each individual you wish to connect with.

  • If you want to connect with a colleague, explain why you want to connect or remind them what you have in common professionally.
  • If you are wanting to connect with someone that you don’t really know, research the person by viewing his/her profile.  Change the wording in your request by highlighting the things you have in common or asking for connection based on specific professional reasons.  For example, “I would like to actively follow ‘XYZ company’ and discuss rotational co-op opportunities.”

Check your account regularly

A major advantage of LinkedIn is that you get real-time information from those in your network about professional happenings.  Make sure you reply to any personal messages within a few days. Add posts and let your network know what professional actions you are taking. Also make sure that you keep your profile up to date. A good practice is to update your LinkedIn profile whenever you update your resume.

  • Students/alumni who have narrowed down companies they are interested in should “Follow” the company and engage with the company content – like, share, or comment on posts (in a genuine way, not excessively).

Group discussions can help keep you informed and strengthen your ties to individuals.  Professional associations, volunteer groups, and your school’s alumni groups have common ground with your interests and strengths.  Alumni usually have an extra interest in seeing students from their alma mater succeed.

Ask your professional contacts for advice, not just jobs

Requesting a brief private phone/e-mail conversation can often yield a better result than a request that is not entirely in your contact’s control.  If you have kept an active connection with this person and researched the company he/she is associated with, your efforts to ask that person’s advice show that you are a professional engineer and potential colleague.

Iowa State has a profile in LinkedIn which you can find by searching for Iowa State University or click here. Toward the top of this profile page, you can click on the ‘alumni’ button to see a list of all individuals who have indicated they attended Iowa State. You can then use various filters, such as where they work and what their major was, to narrow down this list. Alumni might be more likely to want to assist you in your employment search because you have a natural shared connection.

Connect with HR managers

When applying for a position online, attempt to connect with the hiring manager or human resources (HR) manager at the location of the position to let them know that you have a high-level of interest in the position. Indicate that you recently applied for a particular position and that you would be grateful if they reviewed your application.  It is the job of these individuals to staff the organization, so they are likely to take a few minutes to assist you, and they will likely know the specific person/department that is working to fill the position.  When you make a personal connection, there is a higher likelihood that your application and resume will get serious consideration.