Five Ways to Network on LinkedIn Like a Pro, with Ana Lokotkova

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 252:

Five Ways to Network on LinkedIn Like a Pro, with Ana Lokotkova

Airdate: July 15, 2020

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Our show is sponsored by TopResume. Get a resume that can help you find your next job faster.

Go to macslist.org/topresume.

Kudos to you if you’ve updated your LinkedIn profile recently. But LinkedIn is also a great tool for networking with others.

Here to talk about five ways you can network on LinkedIn like a pro is Ana Lokotkova.

Ana is a career advisor, speaker, and LinkedIn trainer. She helps people tell their professional stories on paper, online, and in person.

She joins us today from the city of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

Well, let’s get right into it, Ana. LinkedIn is almost 20 years old; why do so many people still think it’s just a place to copy and post your resume online?

Ana Lokotkova:

Well, that’s actually very true, Mac. A lot of people still look at LinkedIn as the place to just copy and paste your resume and basically wait for things to happen. But ever since Microsoft took over and bought LinkedIn in 2016, this platform has turned into a much more social, interactive, and learning platform that has a completely different experience.

Unfortunately, for a lot of professionals, it is still kind of awkward to think of LinkedIn as a social media platform because we’re used to thinking, “Well, when it’s social, that means that it’s Instagram and Facebook and that’s where we can share pretty much whatever we want. But on LinkedIn, everyone is pretty conscious that, “I have recruiters and employers watching, so am I allowed to say things that aren’t related to my career? Am I allowed to express my opinions? Is anyone even at all curious or interested to hear my personal or professional stories?”

It’s been a big shift in terms of the experience of LinkedIn users and unfortunately, a lot of people still need to catch up with realizing that LinkedIn has a lot more to offer than just a way for you to show your resume online.

Mac Prichard:

It’s surprising for me to hear that you’re hearing from professionals that they feel awkward using LinkedIn as a social networking platform because there are recruiters, because there are employers and hiring managers on the site and they’re aware of that. I would think that that would be a huge incentive to network, wouldn’t it?

Ana Lokotkova:

I would think so as well but unfortunately, for many people, networking is still a very abstract concept and especially if you’re not used to doing it on a regular basis, if it’s not something that has been part of your life and you’ve been conscious about or aware of. A lot of people still attach quite a significant stigma around networking and it usually has to do with it being more of a transactional gain or some kind of a, “I need to offer something and get something in return.” Or, “I have to reach out to people that I don’t know and ask them for something.” And that is a huge barrier for people. Especially if it’s something new, if it’s something you’re not used to doing.

In my work, with most of the clients that I work with, I think that it’s definitely one of the biggest challenges or hurdles if you will, to shift that mindset and revise or revamp that understanding of what networking actually means in practice.

Mac Prichard:

Well, I know we’re going to get to your pro tips in a moment. I’m glad you brought that up because what I’m hearing is that whether you’re networking virtually or in-person, the challenges are the same, whatever the setting.

I do want to ask, Ana, about this idea, because it’s widespread, as you know, and I hear it a lot too; people think, “Well, if I just put up a great LinkedIn profile, my job is done. The employers and recruiters will find me.” Why isn’t that true?

Ana Lokotkova:

Well, it’s only partially true. So, of course, you do need a great looking profile that highlights your expertise and your strengths and really opens you up to the opportunities that you’re interested in But the way the LinkedIn algorithm works is that LinkedIn prefers and likes users who are regularly active on the platform, so again, LinkedIn is thinking in terms of social interaction, in terms of engagement.

If you’re not active on LinkedIn, if you’re not regularly using your profile, you’re not checking in, you’re not active in your newsfeed, then LinkedIn thinks, “Well, that user is not interested in LinkedIn, they’re not experiencing everything that we’re offering, so maybe they don’t like it or they don’t want it.” And then the algorithm is not going to promote your profile to more people.

Think about it this way, if a recruiter or an employer puts in a search, so let’s say I’m a recruiter and I’m looking for a marketing specialist. I would be putting certain search keywords so that I make sure that I pull up the profiles that are relevant to what I’m looking for. So, the profiles that are going to show up at the top are all going to be…well, obviously there are different factors that affect how high you show up in those search results and I’m sure that we might cover some of those things in our conversation today, but your activity is definitely one of the biggest factors that the LinkedIn algorithm takes into account.

The bottom line is if you want more people, recruiters, employers, other connections to find you and get interested in what you have to offer, the more active you are, the more likely it is to happen.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned the algorithm, do you have to be a premium member of LinkedIn to benefit from networking or people who have basic memberships, can it work for them, too?

Ana Lokotkova:

Definitely, I mean, of course, the premium membership offers some perks and additional benefits that might be pretty useful and helpful, and I do recommend that everyone, every person who is interested in learning more about LinkedIn uses the one-month free trial option. Because, again, it’s free, and you can try it out and see if it’s something that you need and like. I personally don’t have a premium membership; a lot of people that I met through LinkedIn or who are super active on the platform, are also using the basic one. So, depending on your needs, I would say that there are so many things that you can still do just with the basic one and the premium one may not necessarily be something that you really need.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s get to your tips. Your first pro tip, Ana, is to make sure that you have a great profile. What do you mean by this? What does a great profile look like?

Ana Lokotkova:

Well, the number one thing about having a great profile is knowing how to tell your story. Like we mentioned earlier, and I’m glad that you brought this up, Mac, is that a lot of people still just copy and paste their resume and that’s it. That’s how people think of what LinkedIn profiles should look like. But these days, LinkedIn is designed for people to look at. When you’re writing your resume, you have to think about all the systems and software that scan it and that screen candidates but on LinkedIn, you have a huge opportunity and that opportunity is to expose yourself to a set of human eyes directly.

Make your profile engaging enough for those human eyes because anyhow, it’s people who are choosing to reach out to other people or to hire them eventually, so you want to make sure that you’re engaging them with a profile that has some marketing elements to it. In a way, you’re thinking about your LinkedIn profile as a way to present your own brand.

If you were a brand and you were the company of one person, how would you sell your advantages? How would you make sure that you tell people that something sets you apart from the crowd and that it actually tells a little bit more about your personality and the experience? What is it like to work with someone like you?

A great profile, first of all, it has to do with that level of adding some personality, and marketing yourself and thinking of yourself as a brand, as opposed to just listing a set of responsibilities.

Mac Prichard:

Give us some examples of that, Ana. How do you see your clients that you work with show their personality and what does the profile that they create that is engaging, what does it look like? What do they do that others don’t do?

Ana Lokotkova:

That is a great question. The number one thing is definitely your headline. So, most of my clients, when they come to me, their headline looks like their job title at, “name of the company where they’re working.” That’s 90% of headlines on LinkedIn look like. Adding personality to it means that they think of it as a chance to, A, hit the right keywords. So, to make sure that your headline covers those searches that recruiters or employers would put in if they’re looking for a professional like you. If, again, we go back to the example of somebody in marketing, it definitely needs to have some more industry or profession-related keywords.

Maybe it’s “Social media,” maybe it’s, “Digital marketing,” maybe it’s, “Creative marketing,” maybe it’s some other narrow aspect within the area of marketing. And the other thing is, for example, combining that into a slogan. Instead of just saying, “Marketing specialist/digital marketer/something else”, you actually create a value proposition, like a promise. So, potentially could look like, “Transforming your social media presence into revenue.” Or…you base that around a specific problem that you help companies to resolve. That would be one thing.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so if you’re not a copywriter, and I’m guessing 99.9% of our listeners aren’t, start with the benefit that you offer someone and work back from there to write that headline that’s going to be compelling. Is that the approach?

Ana Lokotkova:

Yes, absolutely, so, you think about that target audience, again, who are you exactly talking to? Because unless you can somehow narrow that down and understand which organizations you are targeting, then it’s going to be very hard to tailor a compelling headline that would get their interest. And then you think about the main problem that you know how to solve and also the main success or the outcome or result of that resolution. So, what does that lead to? If you are a social media marketing professional, does that mean that you build social engagement? Does it mean that you help to visualize the brand? Does it mean that you bring sales? Does it mean that you increase the market share? Or does it mean that you create a branding strategy?

Those things that are tangible and really easy to understand for the person who’s thinking, “I have a gap in my business. I don’t know how to do this, I need a professional who can help me figure this stuff out.” That’s the mentality and that’s the mindset.

Mac Prichard:

Think about what’s in it for the employer. What about the tone of a great LinkedIn profile, Ana? Does it have the formality of a resume or do you recommend something different?

Ana Lokotkova:

Not anymore. These days, it does not need to be as formal as a resume. Well, obviously there are still certain standards, so you potentially wouldn’t be able to make it 100% conversational, but at the same time, making it more human voiced. Create that impression that you’re actually in a conversation with another human being. That is definitely a huge trend on LinkedIn and that goes for every single section of the profile. Starting with the headline, the about section, every description of your previous roles, you definitely have some room for creativity and that human voice.

Mac Prichard:

Do you recommend writing it in the first person, saying “I” or, like a resume, should it be in the third person?

Ana Lokotkova:

For the LinkedIn profile, I absolutely recommend writing in the first person, and for the same reason, you are talking directly to the human who has the potential to want to reach out to talk to you, to learn more. So, you want to reach out and engage them and that way you create that impression that you’re actually interacting and that is actually much more likely to get them interested and excited.

Mac Prichard:

How much time does it take to do this if you’re doing it on your own? How much time do you recommend someone spend on creating a great LinkedIn profile?

Ana Lokotkova:

Well, you know, depending on the level of their writing skills, for somebody, it might be pretty quick, for another person, it might take a while. On average, I’d say that you definitely want to put in a few hours into this and quite a bit of thought, and you don’t need to think of it as, “Oh, now I have to dedicate an entire day to just revamping my LinkedIn profile. Not at all.

You actually can break it down into smaller steps. So, let’s say if you have a span of a week, maybe every day, you just spend 20 to 30 minutes and for today, you just have one goal, create the headline. Next day, you work on describing one previous role that you had. The next day, you work on the about section. So, that way it’s a lot more manageable and easy to progress through. As opposed to thinking of it as this huge, big chunk of time that is usually very hard for you to find if you’re really busy.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, I want to take a break, because we’ve talked about how to build that great LinkedIn profile that’s going to attract people, and when we come back, I want to talk about how to engage the people that you’re new, wonderful page attracts.

Stay with us. When we return, we’ll continue our conversation with Ana Lokotkova, who is sharing her pro tips about how to network on LinkedIn.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Ana Lokotkova.

She’s a career advisor, speaker, and LinkedIn trainer. Ana helps people tell their professional stories on paper, online, and in person.

Ana, you’ve got five great tips for how to network on LinkedIn like a pro. We spent the first half of the show talking about how to build that great profile. I want to go through your other four tips because, now that you’re attracting people, you want to engage them.

Your second tip is to not just connect with others on LinkedIn through messages but through the newsfeed. Tell us more about what you mean by that, Ana.

Ana Lokotkova:

Sure, so for a lot of people, there’s always the big question, “What do I write to someone I don’t know?” Right? So it’s a 100 percent cold message and a lot of people hate that and so, it’s hard to find one person that likes cold calling or cold messaging. It’s always awkward and there are always so many unknowns. Before you get to that point, what if you actually look at your newsfeed and you look for opportunities to start those relationships and break the ice through the content that you see there.

Let’s say you’re following a few people who are thought leaders in your industry, whether they are local, in the same area as you are, or even if they’re in a different city or a different country, doesn’t matter. If they are in your industry, they are in your space and in that community. You look at the posts or the content that they’re sharing online. Maybe it’s videos, articles, short text posts, whatever it is, and then you provide your input by commenting under that content. And that helps you expose yourself to those online conversations that are happening in the comments section.

What happens is, anytime anyone looks at that post, especially if that post is getting popular, so there’s quite a lot of traction and you can see that people are liking, commenting, so that means that there’s an engaged audience there. You want to be part of that conversation and the more people look at what you contribute and how you can add value to that conversation, the more likely they are to ask you a follow-up question, or maybe just like your comment so that it moves to the top of that comment section, and that way you gain more visibility.

One of my clients got an interview this way. She obviously took her some take to get that level of exposure and visibility, but all she was doing was proactively engaging with content that she likes about the stuff that is relevant to her industry and her profession. And one day, she made a really great comment under a post and 2 people who were also part of that conversation, they messaged her and let her know that, “Hey, we really liked what you had to say about this. This is the same way we look at it. Why don’t we talk about it?”

Then she landed an interview, then she landed a job offer, so if that’s not networking I don’t know what is.

Mac Prichard:

That’s a great story. Do you also find, in the clients that you work with, that people target either companies or industry leaders that they want to build a relationship with and follow them on LinkedIn and comment on their material?

Ana Lokotkova:

Yeah, for sure. There are probably a lot of people who might be interested in what you have to say about the topics that you care about. So, for everyone, it’s creating that list of target companies, that list of companies that you ideally would love to work for, maybe one day, even if it’s not today or tomorrow, and looking at the active users in that space. Again, if we go back to the marketing example, who are the thought leaders in that specific topic or that area of marketing that you are good at?

What are they talking about? What are the main industry trends that are being discussed? Looking at all of that and building up that newsfeed because, again, the more you engage and the more you show some reaction to content, whether that’s just a like or commenting or sharing that content, the more LinkedIn understands, “Oh, this is the kind of content this person enjoys, so I should show him or her more of similar stuff.” So, that way, you actually populate your newsfeed with the stuff that you really like, and a lot of times people tell me, “Well, I don’t even know how I can gain value from LinkedIn.”

Well, I engage with content every single day and by now, the minute I open my newsfeed on LinkedIn, there is a ton of value, but why? Because I talked to the algorithm. I literally told the algorithm, “Show me more of this.” And anyone can do the exact same thing.

Mac Prichard:

How often do you recommend people go on LinkedIn during a job search and how much time might they spend every day looking at their newsfeed?

Ana Lokotkova:

Well, I would say that definitely, if you are actively looking, going daily is a good practice. You don’t need to devote hours and hours to this. You can start with maybe ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes sometime in the afternoon or before you go to bed. So, that way you break it up into 2 different parts as opposed to just a one-time entering thing. That way it’s easier to manage.

I’m sure that we all have those ten minutes when we’re drinking coffee in the morning or maybe before, you used to check Instagram and you would spend 30 minutes there, so now borrow those ten minutes from Instagram and I’m sure that Instagram will not be too jealous of that. So, you borrow those 10 minutes and use it on LinkedIn and the return on those 10 minutes, accumulated over time, could be greater than you can imagine right now.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned a moment ago, cold contacts, and that brings us to your third pro-tip of networking on LinkedIn which is to avoid reaching out to what you call, “100 percent cold contacts.” Why isn’t that a good idea, Ana?

Ana Lokotkova:

Well, it’s challenging, right, it’s very hard to get the attention of a person who is looking at you and basically, subconsciously looking for any possible reason not to react, or to reject you basically, and that’s just how the human minds work. Something is unknown, we immediately look for reasons not to do it. You never really know whether that person that you want to reach out to, are they open? Are they welcoming to questions and are they willing to share some advice and share some of their time? Or maybe they’re a little bit more reserved and also not so proactive online.

Before you think of reaching out to someone, 100 percent cold, what if you could find ways to build a bridge that would bring you closer to that person? Maybe that’s a shared contact that you have in common or maybe it’s you engaging with that person’s content on a regular basis because from my own experience I can tell you that I share content very actively on LinkedIn, pretty much every day, and I always know and remember the people who regularly show up and say something about the stuff that matters to me. And they haven’t reached out to me directly, we’ve never met in real life, but because I’ve seen them 5 or 10 times, I kind of recognize their name and if they ever do reach out, I will know and I will be way more likely to respond with advice or answer their questions. So, that way you actually increase your chances of not having your message just ignored.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s turn to your fourth tip for networking on LinkedIn like a pro which is to give before you ask. What do you mean by this?

Ana Lokotkova:

Well, a lot of the time, job seekers reach out with an ask, so the whole interaction or the whole first conversation starts with, “I need something from you.” And then you’re faced with the dilemma of, “Okay, am I able to give that person what they’re looking for, or do I have the time, or do I have the resources, or am I in a good mood?” Maybe you’re just having a bad day, and that happens to all of us, we’re all human. Again, if you want to increase the chances of starting off on the right foot and creating that relationship long-term, it’s always nice to make some kind of a gesture first.

It doesn’t need to be big. It could be just the fact that you noticed something about that person’s profile that really stood out for you. Or maybe you found a resource that could be helpful because you’ve been watching, and that person has referred to a certain trend or a certain topic five times within the last week, so clearly they care about this issue. What if you find an extra resource and you send it to them and you tell them, “Hey, I’ve seen that you’re really interested in this topic and I came across this article” or video or whatever, “And I felt like this could be really useful.”

That could continue your conversation online about that topic. So, that way you’re providing value right off the bat and that always creates a completely different dynamic and it actually gets the other person to appreciate you and they are way more likely to offer help in return. That way, you avoid overwhelming them with a request when they don’t even know where you’re coming from and whether they are the right person to help you.

Mac Prichard:

Again, this is all in support of a job search, making these connections, building these relationships, and it can lead to the introductions and the connections that can help you make your case to hiring managers.

Let’s talk about your fifth tip on your list of five, which is to make your ask simple and easy to do. I liked this one a lot. Tell me why you added this to the list.

Ana Lokotkova:

Honestly, because every single day I receive a ton of messages that are basically something like, “Ana, help me find a job.” So, I don’t know what kind of job. I don’t know…find where? I don’t know what that person has to offer. I’ve never seen them in action and so, I don’t really know whether it’s the right fit or whether I can recommend them or anything like that. That ask is huge, and even if I did have the resources and the opportunity to help everyone, it would just be impossible.

Again, we are kind of looking at the way to build that conversation. So, it doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for something down the road, but down the road is a completely different story. When you’re just starting that conversation, it’s always easier to start with something simple and something very easy to do. Ask a question that does not take more than one or two minutes to respond.

An even better tactic is if you can, give options, so let’s say…like someone reached out to me the other day and said, “Hey, I’m not sure whether volunteer experience counts as my exposure to a certain industry. Would you say,” and then they had literally, “A) blah blah blah. B) something else.” So they actually gave me like a multiple-choice test question, so I only had to get back to them with a letter. I didn’t even need to type a whole long answer with many phrases or anything like that.

How easy was that to do? Extremely easy. Anybody can do this. Even the person who is the busiest person in the world. That way, again, you increase your chances of starting that relationship and then down the road when the person is more comfortable with you and maybe you’ve had a couple of conversations or interactions, then you can take it to the next level and then you could potentially start asking for more open-ended advice or some actual tangible help.

Mac Prichard:

Ana, what would you say to a listener who says, “Well, this is great. I understand the value of networking. My time is limited, I need to find a job quickly. How can I make this networking online as strategic as possible so that I can get the results that I want and get a job quicker rather than later?”

Ana Lokotkova:

Well, first of all, you need to have a plan. So, that plan involves who you want to reach out to, so create a list of people. Then set weekly, or whatever time period works for you, targets. Maybe it’s daily, maybe it’s weekly, for some people, it’s biweekly, whatever, but that way you have something to check off your list. If this week I contacted five people in my space who have exposure to ABC or who have worked at those companies and those companies are interesting to me because that’s the kind of companies I want to work for, so that way, I make sure every next week, I’ve reached to more people so that I’m progressing through that and that’s how you start seeing results. Because for a lot of people, I know that it’s always getting started.

That is the hardest part, always, and you think about this big task and maybe you, as you said, understand that it’s valuable and useful and helpful, but you’re like, “Oh my gosh, where do I start? This is such a big undertaking.” Not really. If you have ten minutes a day, and I’m sure that when you’re active with job search, you have more than ten minutes a day, you can do it. You just need to have specific people, specific messages, and you start checking those items off of your list.

Mac Prichard:

It’s been a great conversation. Tell us, what’s next for you?

Ana Lokotkova:

Well, what’s next for me, definitely expanding my own coaching practice. So, I am offering a lot of services to job seekers and I’m always excited to have people from different industries and different worlds. So, that always makes the job a continuous learning experience and the other big project that I’m currently working on is Job Search Secret Weapon. Which is an online platform with resources for job seekers. And I’ve partnered with three other amazing coaches, my colleagues, my professional friends, and just wonderful people, and together we’re building that platform and helping even more people who need help fast and want to get hired sooner.

Mac Prichard:

I know people can learn more about your business and the Job Search Secret Weapon platform by visiting cvlabs.ca.

Now, Ana, given all the great advice you’ve had today about how to network on LinkedIn like a pro, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember?

Ana Lokotkova:

The one thing would be, get started. However overwhelming or hard it might look, it’s not that hard. If I can do it, you can do it. Just get started, and once you do, everything will just become much, much easier from there.

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Chase Sterling. She’s the founder of HHP Cultures. It’s a consulting firm that improves individual and organizational well-being.

It’s easy to get discouraged while looking for work, especially if you’re between positions.

Chase and I will talk about how to avoid a downward spiral during a job search. Her tips include practicing gratitude, being resilient, and establishing a routine.

I hope you’ll join us. Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

COVID-19 has put a damper on in-person networking events. But networking is still a crucial component of finding your next position. Have you ever considered all the ways LinkedIn can be used for networking? If not, you’re missing a huge opportunity, says Find Your Dream Job guest Ana Lokotkova. Ana says we need to look at LinkedIn as more of a social media platform than just a place to drop your resume and leave. She shares how to create a plan to help you reach out to others and the importance of developing a creative profile and headline. 

About Our Guest:

Ana Lokotkova is an international career advisor, speaker, and LinkedIn branding trainer. 

Resources in This Episode: