How to network like a pro: Q&A with Shaun Coulton

How to network like a pro: Q&A with Shaun Coulton

We’re often told ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’.

LinkedIn Insider and digital consultant Shaun Coulton says that old adage rings true now more than ever. He shared his advice on how to network online to further your career with us.

How important is networking when it comes to gaining career opportunities?

‘Relationships have always been at the centre of business but, through online platforms, networking has really come to the fore.’

‘Online platforms, like LinkedIn, let you search for the ideal company you may want to work for and see who you might know that works there. It’s expanded the opportunities people can get and gives them an ability to get into that role and contact the individual they can talk to about the position.’

What’s the etiquette for reaching out to a professional online who you haven’t met?

‘The best way is to leverage mutual relationships. Where possible, identify someone you know in common. Contact that common person and say ‘hey, would you mind introducing me to so and so? Do you know them well? I would love to talk to them about such and such.’

‘When you use this approach, you get a significantly different response because the end person has a mutual connect with that independent person, so there’s greater trust and belief that you may be someone worthwhile to talk to.’

This point you just mentioned reflects findings by The Harvard Business Review on how having an MBA vs a Law Degree shapes your network. The research found that for MBA graduates ‘having a prior contact led to new opportunities to form relationships, whereas having good grades did not.’

‘Absolutely. There was a Forbes article at the end of last year and it basically said employers hire now on three things: do you like the person, do you think your team can work with them, then – do you think they can do the job.’

‘This approach led to greater tenure and greater performance. Employers are getting hundreds or resumes and applicants that seem like the perfect fit, but it turns out they’re the wrong personality or the team doesn’t really get on with them or they’re not really fitting into the culture of the company.’

‘So, employers can use their network to reference check, say ‘Hey, is Shaun as good as his profile says he is, do you think he can do the job we’re after?’

We hear it’s pretty common these days for employers to screen candidates by looking at their online profiles. What tips do you have for students to manage their digital presence?

‘Anything online will be and potentially could be accessed by employers. You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think recruiters and internal HR people aren’t looking at your social media platforms to learn about you and see if you’re fit for the role. You want to present your best professional brand and that’s where a professional platform like LinkedIn certainly helps.’

‘Make sure your profile reflects the role you’d like to do. Update your profile with your current role – not just your retrospective positions. Most recruiters just focus on your current role and maybe your second most recent role, then they’ll look at who they might know in common. So, it’s important to keep your profile updated and show what skills you have to offer.’

Lastly, what’s the best way to maintain networks online? Say, you’ve made a contact, how do you maintain that relationships so that in a year or two years’ time when a great opportunities comes up, you can reach out to that person?

‘LinkedIn provides updates when someone has a promotion, a job anniversary and when they’ve changed roles. You can get into the habit of sending a quick ‘congratulations’ to someone or ‘well done’ and that helps keeps the relationship warm.

‘As and when the times comes that you’re looking for a new career opportunity and you identify that they’re in contact with someone you’d like to be introduced to, it hasn’t been two years since you last spoke.

‘Another thing, so many people are concerned with “what do I write?” “What should I share?” You need to get past that fear and start sharing articles and writing comments that portray your expertise. This will get you in front of your networks; they’ll see those comments and it will keep you front of mind.’

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