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How to build (and maintain) an effective LinkedIn network

Wondering whether to accept an invitation? Ask yourself this simple question: Would you feel comfortable making an introduction to this new connection?

How to build (and maintain) an effective LinkedIn network
[Photo: stux /Pixabay]

It’s no secret that the right connections can make a huge difference in landing your next job or making a career move. Having a strong LinkedIn network and engaging your connections can be an invaluable resource throughout your career. Think of your network as a garden–it’s important to plant your garden with intention, tend to your plants regularly, and at some point you’ll likely need to do some pruning.

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Here are some tips to help your LinkedIn network flourish:

Grow your network thoughtfully from the start

Start by connecting with people you know or trust–including people you know outside of your current field of work. If your network is filled with connections you know personally, it is real and usable, so that each and every connection has the potential to be helpful to your professional life, whether that’s a job recommendation, an introduction, or career advice. Focus on connecting with people from communities such as your company, school, industry, or who share your professional interests.

Once you connect on LinkedIn, you can typically see your connections’ connections, which can open the door to meeting new people who may be able to help your career. Asking your connections to introduce you to someone is a great way to expand your digital network. A warm introduction can be very helpful.

Choose quality over quantity–don’t over-plant!

Your LinkedIn network isn’t a numbers game; having a large number of connections doesn’t necessarily give you the edge. All of your connections should add value to your network–and vice versa. If you are considering connecting to someone you don’t actually know, you might actually consider following them instead. When you follow someone, you will still see any posts they share.

Getting invites from people you don’t know or don’t want to connect with? No problem. You can simply hit ignore, and the person won’t be notified. If you aren’t sure if you want to accept or ignore, you can also message the sender for more information on why they might want to connect by clicking Message below their invitation on the Manage invitations page.

Nurture your network

Remember that connections go both ways. Being a helpful, available connection is the best way to make sure your network is strong and to drive a shared sense of professional enrichment.

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• Make yourself available to others and keep up regular conversations with colleagues and mentors. There are several ways to do that on LinkedIn, whether it’s indicating that you’re open to giving or receiving through our Career Advice feature, or participating in conversations in your feed.
• Post your own content (video, article, or text) or comment on other people’s posts. This is another great way to start conversations with people who have similar interests while sharing your personal expertise. You can also use posts to ask your network for help–like if you are looking for recommendations for a design freelancer to hire or even asking a tactical question about a software tool you are having trouble with.
• Reach out to schedule a coffee with someone in your field. You never know where a conversation might go.

Keep your network relevant–time to prune?

So you’ve made a few career moves and the folks you connected with when you first joined LinkedIn aren’t adding value to your network today. Or, you were eager to build your network and accepted a few too many connection requests that you don’t know or don’t remember meeting. If this sounds familiar, it might be time to go through your network and disconnect with the people who are no longer professionally relevant.

To remove a connection: From the manage connections page, you can scroll through all your connections. Click the More icon (or “. . .” on mobile) next to the connection you’d like to remove and click Remove connection. Click Remove from the Remove Connection pop-up window.

If you do disconnect from someone, know that although they will not be notified of the disconnection, if they do search for you, they will see that you are no longer a connection. Depending on your relationship with that person, this could lead to an awkward conversation. As an alternative, if you want to keep a connection but don’t want to see that person’s posts in your feed, you can also simply unfollow them.

Having the right network will improve the quality and relevance of your feed, the people who send you messages, and who engages with your content. Remember, you and your network are on a professional journey together, and the stronger your network, the further you can go.

Lizabeth Li is a director of product management at LinkedIn.

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