A former coaching client reached out with this question: Is it okay to connect to a prospective employer on LinkedIn?
The short answer is, “Of course!”
LinkedIn is a professional networking site, and your contact at the prospective employer is a burgeoning professional relationship.
However, this client shows reluctance similar to what I hear from other jobseekers around staying in touch with prospective employers.
There is the fear of appearing too aggressive, too desperate or too forward. Whether to connect on LinkedIn is part of a broader question around the best way to stay connected to prospective employers without being a pest.
The first step is to establish the reason to stay connected.
This is why it’s so important to focus the interview on establishing a relationship that will lead to more conversations, rather than trying to close on a specific job.
The strength of the relationship, even if it’s a starter relationship, gives the prospective employer the desire and the rationale for staying connected (via LinkedIn) or otherwise.
Did you give your contact good reason for wanting to stay in touch?
The second step is to understand the best way to stay connected.
Does your contact use LinkedIn?
If they are a recruiter, they most likely will be active and welcome a connection. If they are a senior executive and many levels above you, their LinkedIn connections might be more privately held, and you might want to first connect via email and phone. At the interview (or mixer or wherever you met), ask how best to stay in touch. Ask explicitly if they’d like to connect via LinkedIn.
Finally, when you do connect, the third and subsequent steps are to follow up, follow up and follow up.
This is not about checking in on openings.
This is about expanding and deepening the relationship by focusing on their needs.
Ideas for business solutions. Referrals to helpful people. Congratulations when you hear good news about their company.
These are just some of the many connection-focused touches that demonstrate your expertise, reflect your generosity, and have the added bonus of allowing you to stay in touch.
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Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert, writer, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart (), a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters. Caroline is a co-author (along with Donald Trump, Jack Canfield and others) of the upcoming "How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times" due out March 2010; Bascom Hill Books. Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline most recently headed University Relations for Time Inc and has also recruited for Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, and others. Caroline is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs, a life coach (www.thinkasinc.com) and a columnist for CNBC.com, Conde Nast's Portfolio.com, Vault.com, Wetfeet.com and TheGlassHammer.com.
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