LinkedIn has become an important contemporary and influential way to expand your network and grow your career professional stock. Globally, it is one of the largest directories of professionals and companies and is best known for creating opportunities for persons to network, job search, do company research, and connect with colleagues, industry, alumni, and an assortment of other business related groups. Overall, it offers a different avenue for talent requisition for companies to hire versus the traditional process.

I have gone to various career-orientated talks this year, and a few overarching themes were “Who do you know?” and “Can you sell yourself?”. Just like keeping up with the changing times, it has become critical for young professionals to understand and take advantage of every outlet possible and their potential opportunities. LinkedIn has a lot of potential to improve your visibility on the job market, so it is important to understand how to use LinkedIn to network with other professionals. Here, I am giving  pointers on how to message people on LinkedIn to ask questions and start a conversation. The hope is to help you be able to give your chats a  more in-person feel.

Here are three tips for breaking out of your shell and using LinkedIn to its fullest potential:

  • No risk, no reward:

The most important part of LinkedIn is connecting with people and growing your network, keeping in mind that networking is about being genuine and authentic to build trust and relationships. Remember: you are selling a product, and that product is “you”—be open and honest about what you are trying to sell. Don’t be afraid to say hello and initiate conversation. Sometimes you have to be the first to reach out and say hello, and that is okay; you never know to where a little chatting may lead. Speaking up helps you become more memorable. So, don’t be anxious—take that risk and send that message.

  • Network with purpose:

Use mental introduction guidelines when engaging new people. Sometimes you only get one chance and you have to make it count, so have focused guides in your speech. Having these mental bullet points will help you get your points across clearly. Decide what your objectives are. Before speaking to people, ask yourself, “Why am I networking?”, “What do I want to accomplish with my networking?”, and “Who will benefit the most from my networking?” Basically, you should network with purpose. When trying to get your points across, it is best to be short, concise, and engaging. Give a synopsis of what you do or what business you are in.

  • Ask questions and be relatable:

You want to keep your interactions and conversation from going stagnate. Ask questions that stimulate more conversation, using the “where, when, who, what, and how” as opposed to simple yes or no questions.  The whole point of networking is to learn and to connect, so interacting this way will lead to more organic conversation and dialog.



I am not trying to influence you to just start messaging tons of random people on LinkedIn, but I am trying to suggest networking a little outside your circle. Largely, LinkedIn is about remaining linked with people you actually have encountered. It’s not really a casual social media (e.g. Facebook or Twitter); it is understood to be professional.

Connecting with random people online can be weird; just keep in mind everybody is random until you meet them. The only way to meet people is to talk to them, especially if you have a reason. In-person interactions are more distinctive and memorable than online; however, if you must use it, LinkedIn can be an attractive alternative if you have a specific question or purpose. Good luck—now get to networking!




Want to connect with graduate students, post docs, alumni, and faculty from the Huck Institutes? Join our LinkedIn group here: Penn State Huck Institutes Graduate Network

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