Recently I received a very good question from a reader about the proper way to make connections on LinkedIn:
I subscribe to your email newsletter and love to listen to your podcast. I recently completed a paralegal certificate program and am searching for a paralegal position.
There has been lots of talk about networking on LinkedIn. I have noticed many paralegals in my area have posted profiles. There are even some profiles for law firms I have applied to.
I would like to network with these people to see if they have any advice for a new paralegal and whether they aware of any openings. What is the etiquette on LinkedIn for contacting these individuals?
Dear Puzzled Paralegal:
This is a great question and you are smart to do some research before you jump into LinkedIn networking.
LinkedIn does not play nice with those who attempt to connect with people who do not know them, or at least have some semblance of a connection to them. If enough people report you to the powers that be at LinkedIn with a complaint that they do not know you, you will receive a reprimand from LinkedIn. Your membership could even be suspended.
Once you have your profile completed (remember to update it often), including a professional picture, you can forge ahead with your professional connections.
The best way to connect is through forums/groups. Search for "paralegal", an area of the law you are interested in such as probate and estate planning, or a paralegal association. You should follow the conversations on those forums and contribute questions and comments when appropriate. You will find members to be very helpful. You will also find notices of job opportunities on these forums.
Once you have joined, you can begin to ask members of the forum to connect with you. Please note:
When you send your invitation, do not just use the default message: "I want to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn."
Instead, personalize your message, much the way you asked your question above: tell them you are a recent graduate (be sure to include the name of your program), that you are looking for a job in XX area, and would like to connect with them.
Do not limit yourself to connecting only with people in the area where you want to work. Connect with bloggers, speakers you've heard or with authors whose material you have read -- always taking the time to explain your interest in connecting with them.
For instance, "I was present when you spoke at the State Bar of Michigan's Annual Meeting and very much enjoyed learning more about resume writing. I would like add you to my professional connections on LinkedIn."
You never know who other people know that might be a beneficial contact for you. At the very least, you will be learning a lot from the questions and answers you are following.
Once someone accepts your request, send them a message thanking them. Wait a few days before you start asking questions. Then ask only one or two questions at a time. These are busy people so you want to be sure you do not impose on them.
If someone asks you to connect with them, check their profile and if they are a fit, go ahead and accept their invitations. Then send them a message thanking them for the invitation and letting them know that you look forward to connecting with them on LinkedIn.
You might also consider endorsing someone you know. And if you know someone really well or have read an article they have written or attended a seminar where they spoke, you might write a recommendation. This attention is very much appreciated and may make them more willing to help you with your questions.
While all of this takes time and commitment, the end result will be worth it. I hope this helps!
© 2013 Vicki Voisin, Inc. Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or Web site? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it:Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She is the co-author of The Professional Paralegal: A Guide to Finding a Job and Career Success. Vicki publishes Paralegal Strategies, a weekly e-newsletter for paralegals, and co-hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network.More information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com where subscribers receive Vicki's 151 Tips for Your Career Success.