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A LinkedIn Expert Shares Her Best Networking Tips For Gen Z

If you’re a college senior or recent graduate, you’re probably no stranger to networking on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has become the central hub for making industry connections in the modern workplace, but it can be intimidating reaching out to potential employers, mentors, and peers with an invitation. How can you grow your network? Does having a lot of connections matter, like having followers on another social media platform might? How do you take a new connection from LinkedIn to the real world?

Luckily, LinkedIn is here to give you all the answers with their 2023 Guide to Kickstart Your Career, which includes tons of helpful data on the top jobs, industries, and cities for entry-level professionals (hello, that’s you). And if networking is what you’re most intrigued about, look no further — I spoke to LinkedIn spokesperson Suzi Owens to get the lowdown on how Gen Z is changing modern networking, and how you can make meaningful connections on LinkedIn to hopefully find a job you love.

How is Gen Z changing networking on LinkedIn?

You already know Gen Z is a generation of trailblazers, and that extends to LinkedIn, too. “According to LinkedIn data, Gen Z is growing their professional network at the fastest rate over any other generation,” Owens tells Her Campus. In fact, last year, Gen Z added nearly 30% more monthly connections than Millennials, and 144% more than Boomers. Those networks are more diverse, too, with a smaller gender gap in network size and network growth rates than any other generation.

“As the first digital-born generation, they know how to use internet-sleuthing skills and search filters to find the right folk to connect with,” Owens explains. “We hear from our members on LinkedIn that they’re creating connections based on commonalities — whether it’s background, professional or personal interest, favorite music artist, or dream career path.”

The other focus of Gen Z’s networking is on values in the workplace. “This shouldn’t be a surprise,” Owens says, “as 88% of Gen Z Americans say working for a company or organization that demonstrates a commitment to the culture and values they personally support and believe in is important.”

But if you already know what you value and the types of connections you’re looking for, how do you take that next step?

How can I make meaningful connections on LinkedIn?

Know where to find connections.

As it turns out, there’s no real science behind networking on LinkedIn: You just have to know where to find people you want to network with. This part’s easy, because they may be right in front of you.

“Networking doesn’t have to be that difficult,” Owens says. “Young professionals can start by connecting with those around them from their schools — including alumni or professors — family, and former places of employment. Don’t discredit the people you meet at your summer camp gig and yogurt shop jobs; connecting with everyone within your current bubble of life is an important step in beginning to grow your network.”

Of course, if your old boss at summer camp isn’t the best mentor to help you get a job in finance, you can use LinkedIn’s own features to find the person who is. “Consider where you want to go in your career, and which type of people may be best to offer you advice and guidance on getting there,” Owens suggests. She recommends utilizing LinkedIn’s Guide to Kickstart Your Career to find which industries and jobs appeal the most to you, if you’re not already sure.

“Then, do a search on LinkedIn to find people in those positions — and reach out to send them a personalized message. See if they’d be open to speaking with you and giving you advice to help you take that first step.” She also suggests looking at relevant industry groups to join on LinkedIn.

Know who to connect with.

On platforms like Instagram or TikTok, a large number of followers means a large amount of clout. On LinkedIn, though, you should think more critically about how you’re growing your network, so that you can get the most out of it.

“Your connections should be people you trust,” Owens tells Her Campus. “You want to build authentic, real relationships with fellow professionals who know you and understand you and your goals so that when an opportunity arises, they’re more likely to help connect you or figure out any career challenges you’re facing.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should keep your network extremely exclusive — according to Owens, having a larger first- or second-degree network may come in handy when you’re looking to see who’s hiring in the Jobs tab.

Take your connections beyond the feed.

OK, so you’ve got someone new in your network that you’re really hoping to talk to. But what now? Reaching out can be difficult, but it doesn’t need to be impossible.

“If you’re looking to connect with more like-minded professionals in your area of interest, try to reach out with a thoughtful question or conversation starter,” Owens suggests. “For example, referencing something they posted about or referencing an area of commonality, such as the same school or university.”

You can also send them an InMail message for an extra personalized touch — just make sure you’re reaching out for the right reasons. After you give them some context about your background and why you’re reaching out, Owens adds, “Be specific. Don’t simply ask for a job referral. Instead, explain what your career goals are and the type of advice you’re looking for.”

And, as with most areas of life, consistency is key. “Be proactive in finding connection points to tend to your network on an ongoing basis,” Owens says. That can mean commenting on your connections’ posts when you see them on your LinkedIn feed, sharing work milestones with them as they happen, or simply just reaching out to re-engage every so often. “That doesn’t mean you have to reach out every month, but you also don’t want to only reach out to someone when you need something.”

Keep your own profile up to date.

Still have that old internship listed as your most recent experience? It’s time to change that. According to Owens, you should continue to update the experience and skills sections on your profile, as well as what opportunities you’re seeking, so that everyone else is in the loop — after all, they can’t help you if they don’t know what you want help with.

With an updated profile, Owens says, “your network knows the steps you’re taking in your career, where you’re based and can refer to your profile should they know about an opportunity they can consider you for, or maybe they’re planning a trip and might want to connect.”

Whether you’re looking for a summer gig or a full-time post-grad job, LinkedIn can play a huge role in setting you up for success in your search. Now, take those skills you’ve learned and start networking!

Erica Kam is the Life Editor at Her Campus. She oversees the life, career, and news verticals on the site, including academics, experience, high school, money, work, and Her20s coverage. Over her six years at Her Campus, Erica has served in various editorial roles on the national team, including as the previous Culture Editor and as an editorial intern. She has also interned at Bustle Digital Group, where she covered entertainment news for Bustle and Elite Daily. She graduated in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from Barnard College, where she was the senior editor of Columbia and Barnard’s Her Campus chapter and a deputy copy editor for The Columbia Spectator. When she's not writing or editing, you can find her dissecting K-pop music videos for easter eggs and rereading Jane Austen novels. She also loves exploring her home, the best city in the world — and if you think that's not NYC, she's willing to fight you on it.