Online networking has never been more important than it is today. With all that is going in the world, you don’t want to be in the position to overhaul your LinkedIn profile and build your connections if you should be in the position of losing your job or being furloughed. Also, online networking is now even much more important than it was before the coronavirus pandemic. It’s our primary way of remaining connected to and top of mind with our professional contacts.

You should always keep your network “warm” and your LinkedIn connections updated because at some point, you’ll need them. Here’s a plan for how build and maximize your LinkedIn presence now and in the future.

Step 1: Map out your LinkedIn network

Start by identifying 30 to 50 important LinkedIn connections with whom you’ve lost touch. Categorize your connections into groups:

  • VIP connections: the top 10-15% of individuals to whom you want to immediately reach out
  • Recruiters and headhunters you’ve connected with in the past
  • Influencers to whom you may feel less comfortable reaching out
  • Connections you don’t know well but with whom you share a lot in common

The benefits to this mapping include:

  1. You’ll reconnect with individuals in your network, and discover opportunities and shared connections
  2. You’ll notice that some of your connections have moved on to new companies
  3. You’ll have a better understanding of who composes your 1st-degree connections – those you don’t know well in particular –  and can decide about reconnecting or even disconnecting.

Reach out to them in the coming weeks in a casual way. Listen without asking them for help, just asking how they’ve been, hoping there’s a way you can help them somehow. Being proactive will also help cheer you up during this stressful time. Also, did you know that you can export your LinkedIn connections in a CSV file and then open it in Excel? This makes it very helpful to categorize contacts and also to ensure your LinkedIn address book is in sync with your Outlook contacts.

Step 2: Refresh your LinkedIn profile

Before reaching out to your connections, make sure your profile is complete and showcases your full professional background.

To do this, create a compelling headline and summary, fill out all of your prior work experience and education so you can connect with individuals from prior shared companies and educational institutions. Also add an updated profile photo and a business-focused cover image. Mention any accomplishments to bolster your profile. Reorder, add and delete skills. Ensure your contact information is added to your profile. Consider uploading rich media (video, podcasts, etc.) and add items to the “Featured” section (prior articles, news clips, etc.) to enhance your profile.

Use these updates to update your resume as well – you may need it soon.

Step 3: Stay in touch professionally

Now that you have a direction, an enhanced profile and know who you want to reach, how do you go about it?

Each day 1) Send 1-2 customized LinkedIn connection invitations and 2) leverage three common types of LinkedIn notifications from people in your mapping: birthdays and new job and work anniversary announcements

Birthday notifications

Birthday notifications are a great way to reconnect, if you do it right.

Instead of ignoring it or clicking on the default “Say Happy Birthday!”, treat birthdays as a way to strengthen your relationship with that person:

  • Visit their profile
  • If you haven’t been in touch recently, see where they work and what they’re up to. Does their recent LinkedIn activity present an item you can intelligently refer to? For example, have they moved to a new position in their company, or to another location?
  • Send them a short message either by LinkedIn messenger or email.

New job and work anniversary notifications

New job and job move notifications are an excellent opportunity to touch base. Resist the urge to click on the default “Congrats!” that LinkedIn suggests, to add to the dozens of congratulations they’re likely to receive. Send them a short message either by LinkedIn messenger or email.

Step 4: Share content

Share content you’ve written or your company has written. You can also share business articles from sources such as Inc, Forbes and Harvard Business Review. The key is to be helpful with what you share and to always think about what will appeal to your connections.

Final thoughts

Your goal with LinkedIn is to maintain a steady presence on the platform and to be in touch with your connections on a regular basis. This helps to strengthen relationships and give you touchpoints to demonstrate your expertise. Invest in your important relationships ahead of the time you need them. Staying in touch and building strong relationships using LinkedIn is one of the most important things you can do during the pandemic and throughout your career. Also, remember that it’s never too early or late to use LinkedIn in a meaningful way or to build your network. Good luck and stay safe.