Workplace Trends

Workforce Trends

Four Tips for Breaking Out of Your Online Networking Comfort Zone

By Lee Hecht Harrison on October 10, 2014

Do you only accept LinkedIn invitations from people you know? If you limit yourself that way, you may want to reconsider. To keep the ideas and points of view fresh and relevant, your network should include a diverse group of people with varying backgrounds, areas of expertise and opinions. To do that, you may want to look beyond just those people you know. If most of your connections are co-workers, former colleagues or friends, chances are you’re not tapping into the real promise of social connections.

In his Inc.com article, 6 Big Reasons to Use LinkedIn More Like Twitter, Larry Kim offers sound reasons to accept more invitations—yes, even from people you don’t know. He makes a strong case for diversification: improved branding, increased endorsements, heightened visibility. Likewise, Kim encourages members to reach out to the distant parts of their social system. When networking, weak ties can net big results.

Here are four tips for boosting your networking presence by stepping out of your LinkedIn comfort zone:

  1. Make it personal. Always customize your invitation. Using the boilerplate invite is the equivalent of junk mail or spam.  Write a brief message that highlights common interests so the recipient knows why you’re connecting.
  2. Start with school. The LinkedIn “Find Alumni” feature allows members to search the database by location, company, the years they attended the school and industry. It’s a natural place to start with a “warm” audience.
  3. Leverage commonalities. Reach out to other members of your profession or industry. A simple LinkedIn search for job titles and industries will produce the names of contacts with shared—yet different—experience. Use your invitation to initiate a conversation that gets the relationship off the ground.
  4. Connect with group members. Joining groups on LinkedIn will keep you informed on industry and professional trends, but becoming an active participant and reaching out to connect with other members will help expand your network.

Break out of your comfort zone and you may be surprised where a little audacity takes you.

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