Using LinkedIn to develop your network – 4 templates to get you started

linkedin-911794_960_720LinkedIn is an amazing resource. It gives you access to the career history of millions of people around the world, many of whom have similar backgrounds or interests to you. It also makes real the possibility of actually communicating with these people to find out more about what they do now and their career journeys.

All that said, it can be scary and potentially awkward introducing yourself to people you don’t know online.

To help you get started here are 4 easy templates which you can adapt to reach out to people on LinkedIn or via email.

The key principles here are:

  1. Be clear what you’re asking
  2. Get straight to the point

People don’t owe you anything and people are busy but if you can be specific and gracious in your approach there are a lot of people who are happy to oblige (it’s a nice feeling to get asked for your expert opinion).

  1. Contacting Queen Mary alumni

Finding people on LinkedIn who studied the same thing as you (or were in the same clubs/societies as you) is a great basis upon which to strike up a conversation with someone. You automatically have something very concrete in common. So use that to your advantage as shown in this template:

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How to make your LinkedIn profile stand out


While waiting in an airport over Christmas I got chatting to a man who was relocating to Australia for a new job. He now works for a large Australian software development company who, he told me, only recruit through LinkedIn. They never advertise roles, instead finding suitable candidates by searching for key skills on their LinkedIn profile.

Having a LinkedIn account can be a great way to build up contacts while at QMUL, and find work experience opportunities alongside your studies and the example above shows just how important it is to get your profile right! Take a look at our top tips below to increase your chances of your LinkedIn profile being seen by a potential employer:

  • Make sure you upload a professional picture of yourself – this is definitely not the place for a Facebook-style selfie! Your photo will be the first thing a recruiter will notice, so a professional headshot is recommended – see this LinkedIn article for detailed tips on getting the perfect profile pic.
  • Include a headline – this sits beneath your name at the top of your profile, and will be visible in search results, so make it count! This headline section should reflect your current situation – e.g. your career goal, current work status, preferred industry or current job title.
  • Keep your profile up to date – update LinkedIn regularly with any new skills you develop (new software, language skills, blogging etc) and anything relevant from your degree such as achievements, grades and involvement in societies.
  • Don’t forget the volunteering section – LinkedIn has a specific area for including any voluntary work you have been involved in – this could be charity work, or helping at a local sports club for example. It’s all great experience which employers will be keen to see.

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Managing your online presence

twitter-292994_960_720At our recent ‘What Employers Want’ event, run on campus by Accenture, we heard about the importance of managing your online presence (sometimes called digital footprint).

Some employers will search for candidates online to find out more information about them, before deciding who to take to interview. There are plenty of places an employer could look:

  • Profiles on Facebook,Twitter or LinkedIn.
  • Discussion boards, blogs, or articles you may have contributed to or featured in.
  • Photographs that you, your friends or family have posted online.

Once information is out there, it’s there for good, so it’s important to think carefully about what you’re sharing. A simple way to find out what’s out there already is to search for yourself on Google. Put simply, if you can find information about you online, then so can an employer!

What should you avoid?

  • Unprofessional profile pictures.
  • Inappropriate posts or comments, including anything racist, sexist or homophobic, bad language, or anything negative about an employer or colleague (there are plenty of stories of people being fired for this, even before they’ve started the job!).
  • Photos from drunken nights out.
  • Complaining about university work or negative comments about lecturers and classmates.
  • Inappropriate Twitter handles – think what your name says about you.

Of course, if an employer searches for you online and there is no record of you whatsoever, this also may seem a bit odd! Whilst there are things to avoid, there is much to gain from having an online presence:

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Using LinkedIn to network

LinkedIn is a professional networking site, and more and more employers are now using it to search for suitable candidates. It’s an effective way to keep in touch with recruiters or people you meet at networking events, and allows you to quickly build up your network of contacts. You can:

  • Showcase your CV, in the form of your online profile, which is searchable by employers
  • Connect with individuals working in your chosen field
  • Research people’s career paths
  • Search for jobs

Our suggestions for getting started:

  • Don’t be tempted to use LinkedIn as a professional Facebook page. Only write appropriate updates and comments.
  • Complete your profile. Make it easier for people to find you by including your name, location, education, skills and experience.
  • Have a profile image. A professional headshot is recommended.
  • Add connections. Begin by searching for people you already know. Invite past and current co-workers and, where relevant, classmates, friends and family to connect with you. More connections gives you greater access to other users, by expanding your network.
  • Get recommendations and endorsements. Ask people who have worked with you to give you a recommendation or endorsement, which is visible to anyone who views your profile.
  • Become an active member of groups, share content and engage in discussions. They’re a good place to get advice and find industry professionals.
  • Update your information regularly – you never know when recruiters might be looking at your page!

Top tips for using LinkedIn to network

  • Find the right people: Search for companies and job titles that you’re interested in.
  • Ask for help and be clear: Ask something specific like, ‘I’d like to know how you started out in your chosen career?’
  • Personalise: Why are you reaching out to this person? Do you have a shared connection or admire their career path?
  • Be considerate: Understand that time is very important and explain that you’d really appreciate as little as 10 minutes.
  • Follow up: You might not hear back straight away, but do politely follow up about two weeks later.

How to stay career motivated in the New Year

blog picIt can be a tricky time of year to stay motivated with career plans. Let’s face it, the Christmas season takes a little bit out of all of us, and the pressures of the academic year end are too far away yet for us to worry about. And yet it can be a lost opportunity for now can be a great time to make progress, to find out more about yourself and what you want, and to make yourself ultimately more career-ready.

The key to this lies in goal-setting. The power of an action plan is a wonderful thing, so set yourself a few career goals over the next 2 or 3 months – write them down, pin them somewhere visible, share them with someone else – and you should see yourself start to move forwards with your plans. If you are stuck for ideas, then consider some of the following:

Grow your networks

Successful networking – both personal and professional – is an increasingly important factor in career success. Have a look at the Careers & Enterprise events on offer at Queen Mary as these can be a great way of meeting with employers and learning more about their industries. On a personal level, speak to people you know about the jobs they do. Join LinkedIn (if you haven’t already) and start developing your own professional connections.

Refine your ideas

Whatever year you are in, it is never too early or too late to speak to a careers consultant about your post-graduation ideas. And if you have no ideas, don’t be afraid to book an appointment to start the ball rolling. If you have a little work experience on your side already, it can be useful to put time aside to reflect on what you have learned from your experiences and how this may help to shape your plans. Think about the skills that you can offer but also about what it is you want from a career. What would be in your careers shopping list?

Refresh your CV

We don’t necessarily need to be job seeking to spend time on our CVs. Getting ourselves job-ready is an important step to ensure we can seize any opportunities that may come our way. So have a look at your current CV. Is there anything you need to add? Can you think of a better way of bringing out your experience? Remember that recruiters spend as little as 10 seconds looking at these, so you need to make the right impact quickly. Presentation is everything.

Build experience

Whether through a part time job, volunteer work or internship opportunities, this is always a wise use of time and should help to make the transition into the world of work easier.  All experiences is good experience but think hard about what you want to gain from it. Are there particular skills you wish to develop or an industry you wish to gain experience in? Do It is a great website to find volunteering opportunities, or see what is on offer through Queen Mary’s very own QRecruit opportunities, encompassing both internships and part time work.

Whichever targets you set, be careful not to overwhelm yourself. If a challenge seems too big then it becomes easy to shy away from. The objective isn’t to try and attempt all of these ideas but to select those that you feel you need most, or those that are most motivating. Then, break them down into small, achievable parts and you will soon feel the benefits of progress.

Five tips for networking without family connections

This was originally posted on The Careers Group Bog, Reach, on 2nd October.

Networking is important in job seeking and exploring your career options, from helping you to discover unadvertised vacancies  to developing commercial awareness. But what if you don’t know anyone in the types of roles that interest you? This problem is particularly common for students and graduates from less affluent backgrounds so here’s some advice on overcoming that barrier.

Network by Flickr user futureshape

Your university alumni

Your careers service may provide contact with alumni or sometimes it’s managed through the alumni office. If these places don’t set up connections the LinkedIn alumni search  can be particularly helpful. The good thing about using alumni is that you’ll have an easy starting point to any conversation, plus alumni tend to be especially willing to help you out.

Social media

As well as the alumni search, LinkedIn can help you make connections by joining relevant groups. The approach taken and particular etiquette varies by sector but general advice is to be polite and personal when reaching out to people and make sure you’re contributing something of value when commenting in group discussions. Keep an eye out for LinkedIn workshops from your careers service as these can help you use it most effectively.

Although LinkedIn is specifically designed for professional networking other social networks shouldn’t be ignored. Twitter is especially useful in that you don’t need permission to follow someone so shy people can build up gradually to making direct contact after getting the lay of the land first. Good accounts to follow are companies’ recruitment feeds, professionals in the industry, and journalists and PRs for the sector that interests you. Once you’re following some folk you can check lists they’re on for other people to add to your network.

Your careers service

Check to see what employer talks and networking events your careers service puts on. There are usually loads throughout the year covering different sectors and many give the opportunity to network. As well as the events put on by individual services The Careers Group also puts on graduate recruitment fairs such as this month’s London Graduate Fair.

Professional associations

Many sectors have societies or networks for their professionals, and sometimes there are specialist  events for students too. The kinds of activities for professional associations vary from formal to social. You can find professional associations on Careers Tagged you can refine the results by sector by choosing a keyword in the right-hand column.

There are also informal groups such as meetups where people discuss professional issues and meet others from their industry. One place to find these is

Lateral thinking

There are many contexts where you can meet people with interesting jobs. We’ve heard about people working in shops close to the company they want to work in. Chats with customers eventually led to careers talk. In an article in the Financial Times  a recruitment consultant advises “putting a CV under the windshield wiper of all the BMWs on a block – after all, bosses drive BMWs”. This might be for the more confident job seeker but it’s all about connecting with people and this can happen anywhere and in lots of different ways.

Even if nobody in your family works in the industry you want to enter into they might know someone who knows someone… don’t rule anyone out when it comes to making connections.

Find more information and advice on networking on Careers Tagged. Also useful might be these resources which cover internship programmes, information and support for students and grads from low-income backgrounds.

Over to you!

What are your best networking tips? Or what do you find hardest about networking? Let us know by leaving a comment.