Expanding one’s personal and professional networks is an added benefit of continuing education. While exact numbers vary, it’s known that many job seekers find a position based on referrals from people in their network. Establishing a network in a 100% online environment is different than doing so at a brick-and-mortar university, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. With the right approach and resources, online networking offers more opportunities and flexibility to meet people from across the country and the world. While LinkedIn is one of the most popular and successful professional networking platforms, many people do not update their profiles until it’s job-search time. By then, a major overhaul is required to update previous position details, send dozens of connection requests, and scavenge for skill endorsements from people in their networks. There is a better way to build your network over time. Follow these tips to avoid the frenzy of updating your entire profile at once. Fine Tune Your Profile When you send requests to connect, assume that the person will view your profile before accepting. If they go to your profile and you don’t have a picture, previous positions, or other relevant details listed, they may deny your request because they won’t see what you have to offer. Need some tips for making your profile stand out? Check out these 10 Tips to Use LinkedIn the Right Way. Making Connections Don’t be afraid to connect with people from outside your circle -- that’s the whole point of networking. But be deliberate with your connections. Expand your network in a way that reflects your career goals, interests, and passions. Focus on building connections that matter rather than trying to increase the number of people you’re connected to -- and build new connections constantly. If you go to a conference and meet people you would like to add to your network, send them connection requests as soon as possible. Add a Personal Message One of the biggest mistakes you can make when trying to build your network is not adding a personal message to your connection request. If the person to whom you send a connection request receives 20 requests per day, how will your empty request stand out from those that have a personalized message? Customizing your request is simple and shows consideration for why this connection will be mutually beneficial. Join Groups There are LinkedIn groups for almost every interest and industry imaginable. Joining groups that align with your goals and interests will give you the opportunity to meet others in your industry, share knowledge, exchange ideas, and form new professional relationships. Commit to Staying Active If you want to attract and grow the right audience, make sure you’re being strategic about the content and frequency of your posts. Share articles, insights, and resources that are relevant to your goals and the types of connections you are looking to make. Keep in mind that your connections may share your posts with their connections, increasing your exposure and the potential to expand your network. Don’t wait until you need your network to start actively engaging with people. LinkedIn offers endless opportunities to create and cultivate connections, so use it as a resource. Start building your network today and follow CSU Global on LinkedIn and join the CSU Global Alumni group if you are a CSU Global graduate.In this blog post, CSU Global's Community Outreach Coordinator Lauren Galena outlines best practices and benefits of networking on LinkedIn.