How many times have you connected with someone on LinkedIn—someone with clout and experience who you thought could help you—and then received nothing in return? Without a viable path forward, the relationship grows stale. It doesn’t serve any purpose for you or the other person. You have a first-degree connection, but it’s not really meaningful to your professional life. Maybe you’ve never even had a dialogue.
There’s still time to “warm up” these seemingly lifeless connections and get them working for you. Up to 85% of roles are filled before they ever reach the job posting stage. Your network has the inside line on these opportunities—you just need to know how to leverage those relationships.
How to Make Your Professional Connections Work for You
1. Pay it forward.
Building a new relationship is all about making someone feel at ease. Start by volunteering something valuable without it being requested. For example, you could send a message like, “Hi [First name], I hope you’re well! I’ve been meaning to reach out to you and let you know that I appreciate your connection with me. Second, I’d love to jump on the phone if you’re free to learn a bit more about you, and help in any way that I can. I’m happy to make an introduction to someone in my LinkedIn network if that’s useful to you. I’m free in the afternoons next week—is there a day or time that works for you? -[Your Name]”
2. Add value.
You know what almost everyone loves? A savvy professional willing to share their expertise. If you read any books or journals, follow thought leaders on social media, or subscribe to a newsletter, you probably understand this motivation.
You can position yourself as an expert by introducing the person to something you’ve written or an article that struck a chord in your industry. Share a few of your thoughts to get the ball rolling, and then ask them to let you know what they think. When the conversation picks up and starts to feel natural, try to move the dialogue from LinkedIn messages or email to the phone or an in-person meeting.
3. Trial run your insight.
People love free expertise. If want to generate new business, offer a slice of your professional insight—and get to know them better during the process. Fire off a warm message that restates your interest in getting to know the person better. Then segue to something along the lines of, “I had a chance to briefly review your LinkedIn profile, and [insert pain point here].” Then mention that this is something you address all the time in your work, and you would be glad to offer a few suggestions if it would be helpful to them. This can encourage a productive conversation and might lead to more meaningful exchanges in the future.
A word of warning: The more effective your LinkedIn profile is, the more clearly it establishes professional credibility and social capital. Someone with verifiable references and a polished public image will get positive responses when they implement these strategies. So before you start reaching out to the people on the outskirts of your network, make sure you project the right impressions online. If you’re still daunted by using LinkedIn to develop your professional connections, remember: Just a handful of people can completely change your life if they like and trust you. I know, because having those contacts have changed my life.
— Anish Majumdar
This story originally appeared on Ivy Exec. Anish Majumdar is a nationally recognized Career Coach, Personal Branding Expert, and a fierce advocate for transitioning leaders. His posts and videos on disrupting the "normal rules" of job searching and getting ahead reach a combined audience of 30M professionals every month. Go down the rabbit hole of Anish’s career videos at HelloAnish.com, and connect with him on LinkedIn to receive daily career tips and advice.