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Don’t Sleep On LinkedIn

5 Ways To Network Successfully Using LinkedIn

Workin' Girl

One of the keys to building a strong professional and personal brand is building genuine relationships. Whether you're hunting for a new job, trying to scale your business, grow your tribe, or build personal contacts of like-minded and similar-interested persons in your network - there's one social media platform you shouldn't overlook: LinkedIn.


Ever since I graduated college, LinkedIn has been my go-to social platform for connecting with other professionals. I even call it my "digital rolodex." By using it strategically, I've been able to convert online connections into real-life opportunities. This includes scoring brand partnerships for my podcast and landing high-profile press opportunities such as getting spotlighted on the Apple Podcasts homepage three times! However, my favorite part of using the platform is being able to find and connect with dope professional in industries I'm interested in and respect.

Here are some quick ways that you can make sure you're utilizing the power of LinkedIn to fuel your professional connections and network successfully.

1. Make sure you have a strong personal profile

If you're going to use LinkedIn consistently, making sure you have a strong and complete profile is necessary. Start by making sure you have a captivating and professional-looking headshot. (No cellphone selfies, please.) Then, take the time to craft an attention-grabbing headline that showcases who you are and what you do. Some opt to showcase their current role and company here, but you can also use this space to be creative with your answer to "Who are you?"

Then, go through your profile and fill out all the necessary sections including your work experience, education, volunteer work, skills, accomplishments, and interests. Be as thorough as possible, insert keywords, and include links that showcase your work portfolio. If possible, try to get others to leave recommendations that speak to your personality and work ethic, experience, etc. This part of your profile is a constant work-in-progress, but starting strong can help as your professional reach evolves.

2. Treat LinkedIn as your digital rolodex

In the sales world, a CRM is a customer relationship manager - or a tool that allows you to keep track of everyone in your sales funnel. I like to use LinkedIn in a similar fashion by keeping track of everyone that I've ever met professionally. It's a step in my personal follow-up routine, especially after attending meetings, conferences, or industry events. Depending upon who the person is, I'll send a detailed follow-up email and then send a personalized LinkedIn friend request. The standard LinkedIn request is not unique or compelling enough to make someone want to connect with you. Though you may remember who you're trying to connect with, the person may not remember you. My simple formula for is this:

"Greeting + why I'm interested in connecting + thanks!"

For example, if I meet a fellow writer at a local meetup, I'll usually send a follow up email and LinkedIn friend request that reads something like, "Hey, it was great meeting you at the NYC meetup. Let's keep in touch. I'd love to connect here on LinkedIn."

If you've never met the person you want to connect with, lead with your reason for connecting. "Hey XX, My name is Rana and I'm a fellow NYC writer. Would love to connect as there may be ways for us to be a resource to one another." Unprompted, random friend requests usually go unanswered or get declined.

3. Utilize the search feature

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One of the best features of LinkedIn is its search function. You have the ability to insert keywords and search for people, jobs, or content. When searching for people, my favorite combination is to use "company name + role." For example, when searching for a podcast executive at a big brand, I searched "head of podcasts + company name." The search resulted in a list of people at that company that had podcasts in their job title (past and present.) I was then able to scroll through this list to find the appropriate contact profile.

If you're hunting for a job, you can also input keywords such as desired role and location to search for a specific opening catered to your needs. LinkedIn also has a jobs tab that allows you to get ultra-specific with your job search terms. Take the time to explore the search features here. You'll also have access to see which of your connections currently work at said company. You can use this knowledge to message your connections to ask for referrals or get insight on the company and job listed.

In general, LinkedIn's search feature is a great way to view others' professional histories. I use it all the time to learn more people that I'm interviewing or meeting with. If you're going on a job interview, use it to get more insights on your interviewer's past or company that can help inform the questions you ask during the interview. With LinkedIn, you have no excuse as to why you shouldn't be prepared in these type of professional circumstances.

4. Become a thought leader

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LinkedIn provides many ways to establish yourself as a professional thought leader by using your opinion to stand out and share value-added content to your connections. Unlike other social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook - LinkedIn is built solely for professional connections. If someone's on the platform, chances are they are looking for career, business, or professional inspiration.

Back in 2014, I was an early adopter to LinkedIn articles and enjoyed sharing content that related to my experience as a young professional. I realized the power of the platform when one of my articles "10 Ways To Rock Your Next Interview" went viral. From that article alone, I amassed thousands of followers who, to this day, engage with my posts and content because of the value I bring to their professional lives.

Interestingly, as you build your professional brand, others will likely be watching as well. I once reached out to a producer at Fox that I was connected with to learn more about her job responsibilities. She responded by letting me know I had been on her radar and she wanted to book me for a segment based off an article I wrote that I had previously shared!

5. Don’t be scared to take it to the DMs

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Once you've connected with someone - why not take it a step further? LinkedIn is the place to initiate business speak via a direct message. If you find someone that you want to connect with professionally, approaching via direct message should be straightforward and respectable. Chances are (and depending upon their profile), they are less likely to be inundated with messages and more likely to respond to your message.

Here's an example of a message I recently sent to a connection at a company I thought would be great to connect with:

Hi XX,

Hope all is well! My name is Rana and I'm the founder of Dreams In Drive - which is a community helping millennials learn how to take their dreams from PARK to DRIVE. I'd love to chat with you about possible ways to work together as there is a DEFINITE intersection between our missions. Do you have time for a quick 15 min call to talk more about this?!

-Rana

In this message, I stated who I was and why I wanted to connect and included a clear call to action. You can change up your approach, but always make sure your ASK is clear. Be as genuine as possible without appearing too needy or demanding.

With any social platform, it's all about how you use it. Each platform has its challenges and opportunities to win, but LinkedIn is one of my personal favorites for building and sustaining professional relationships. For all my girl bosses out there, if LinkedIn isn't part of your weekly social media must-dos, I highly recommend you add it to your list. The opportunities for expanding your professional reach and building your tribe are limitless.

Featured image by Getty Images

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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