Make It Personal: How To Build An Effective Social Network

By Kelly Cleary

“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”

What better way to say, “I’m not really putting much effort into this networking thing,” reminiscent of the way sending a resume without a cover letter might suggest, “I’m not interested enough in this position to take the time to tell you I’m interested and explain why I’m qualified.”

Making connections on professional social networks like LinkedIn is a relatively easy and very effective way to develop or enhance professional relationships and to reconnect with colleagues or classmates. That said, collecting connections by simply blasting generic requests to any profile names that look somewhat familiar, are in your alumni or employer networks, or are one or two connections away from you is generally not an approach that will likely lead to developing mutually respected relationships that will help you learn more about your field, and perhaps lead you to opportunities in the “hidden job market.”

Instead of immediately hitting “Send Invitation” and the generic auto-fill request when you decide you’d like to request a connection with someone, take just a minute or so to personalize the request with a little note to say hello. It might be helpful to mention where you met or if you have a particular affiliation in common, such as an alumni network. If you’re trying to connect with someone you have not yet met, then include a brief introduction of yourself and mention why you’d like to connect. If you have a mutual friend or connection that referred you to that person, then mention that as well. Since a primary goal for your building your network is to develop longstanding professional relationships, this type of personal note can set the perfect tone for an ongoing conversation.

From Penn’s Career Services on LinkedIn page you’ll find industry subgroups and many tips for using LinkedIn including How To: Network Professionally Online and How To: Build a Professional Student Profile.

Author: Kelly

Kelly Cleary is the Senior Associate Director of Career Services for College of Arts & Sciences undergraduates.