Now that you’ve created a complete profile, it’s time to start connecting and engaging with people you might know on LinkedIn.  Let’s start with the basics – connecting with people in your Outlook contacts.  

Start by logging in to your home page.  Since you’re a new member and still building your LinkedIn base, you will likely see this box:


Here, you can log in to your email account – if you’re using Gmail or Yahoo! – or just below that, you’ll see that it says "Do you use Outlook, Apple Mail or another email application? Import your desktop email contacts."

Click the link that they provide and this box will come up:

Exporting From Outlook

In case you’re not sure how to export your contacts from Outlook, we’ll go through that too.  I’ll be showing you these steps in Outlook 2010, which is the latest version, so it may differ depending on what version you have.  Ask someone for assistance if this doesn’t look familiar to you.

Begin by clicking the File tab in Outlook:

Once you’re on the File page, click "Options:"

This will open a new window with options for what you can do in Outlook:


On this screen, click "Advanced:"

That will open this window:

 Almost at the bottom of this screen (without scrolling down), you’ll see a section labeled "Export."

Click the Export button, and yet another window will open:

In the menu above which it tells you to "Choose an action to perform," select "Export to a file."

Then, click "Next >"

The next screen will ask you to "Create a file of type:" and you want to choose "Comma Separated Values (Windows)" – this is a .csv file, which is one of the most common file types accepted for this type of import in LinkedIn.

Then, click "Next >"  The next window asks you to choose where you want to export from.  Here, you want to choose your contacts. The window automatically defaults to your Inbox, so scroll up until you see "Contacts."

 You may have sub-categories under contacts as I do.  But if you want to search through all of your contacts for potential LinkedIn connections, choose the top category, that of "Contacts." Click "Next>"

The next screen will ask you to save the imported file, and where you want to save it.  If you just name the file here, Outlook will save it in a folder of its choosing – which you may never find again. So instead, start by browsing to the Desktop – I always do this when I later want to be able to find a file easily.  You can always move the file somewhere else later. 

Hit "Browse" and a window will open.  It depends on the settings that your computer has as to what the default window will open to, but mine opens to the documents library.  To save to the desktop, click "Desktop" on the lefthand side.

It will take you to your desktop, and you can name the file whatever you would like.  I called mine "OutlookContacts" (with no space), which is descriptive enough that I will know what it is when I later relocate it.

Then hit "OK" to go back to the previous screen.  You’ll see that it fills in the "path" (or the location on your computer, including the file name) for the file.  On this screen, you just need to click "Next>"

Once you hit "Next>" Outlook tells you that the following actions will be performed.  On this screen, you have the option of mapping the fields if you would like – this means that you can assign the categories of information that Outlook creates to categories you would like to designate. For example, this would be useful if you were uploading the file to another program where "FirstName" was considered "First_Name" – computers read this information differently.

In this case, it’s not necessary, so just click "Finish."

Once you click Finish, Outlook is going to export the file, and it will give you a progress bar.  Once the file is saved, the progress bar will disappear, and the file will appear on your desktop (or saved location).

Now you’re ready to upload this file to LinkedIn and see who you might want to connect to! 

Importing Into LinkedIn

First, click on "Choose File:"

This will open a new window that will allow you to browse to the file you just saved.  If it doesn’t open to the desktop, browse to the desktop as we did in Outlook.  Choose the .csv file:

Click "Open." This will take you back to the first screen, where you want to click "Upload File."

Sometimes, LinkedIn will have trouble uploading your file if there are two many fields in it – it will give you a generic error like "We’re having trouble uploading your file right now, try again later."  However, this generally means "Something is wrong with your file and unless you fix it, we’ll never upload it."  I got this error when I tried to upload my file, so I opened the .csv from my Desktop (it will open in Excel) and deleted any unnecessary columns, such as birthday, anniversary, website, etc.  

Then, I saved the file and tried uploading again, and it worked.  If it works, you’ll get a screen like this: 


As you can see from this page, I have 570 contacts that I could invite from my Outlook file.  287 of these are already on LinkedIn.  You can tell if someone is using LinkedIn if they have the little "in" symbol next to their name, like all of the names in the above picture do.

My recommendation for this screen is to uncheck the top box that says "Select all" and go through each of the names individually to see if you’d like to connect with them.  In my case, since I’ve created this as a sample profile, and am already connected to most of these people in my existing account, I won’t reconnect to them.  But, for the sake of example, I chose a couple of patient friends to add.  Once you’ve chosen those you’d like to connect to, click "Send Invitations." 

As I’ve mentioned before, this will send the invitations automatically to those contacts that you’ve checked, without allowing you to personalize it.  This may be okay for some contacts, but I would recommend sending more personal invitations to your clients and referral sources.  

At this point, I’ll also make a note – if you send a lot of invitations to people you don’t know well or are just hoping to connect to, and they click the "Ignore" option when they receive the invitation, you may be "blacklisted" on LinkedIn.  In that case, you’re still able to access your profile and add people, but you’re required to input the email address for everyone you might want to add, which can severely restrict your connecting. So be thoughtful about who you want to connect with.

Another general point – some people think that you will sign up on a social media site and immediately get business.  Although some people have gotten work from their social media relationships, this is generally not the case.  The benefit to creating a social networking presence is a) you can see and participate in conversations that are happening about you, your firm, and your practice/industry area and b) it creates context for people who might be looking to hire you through other channels. For example, if someone is looking for an employment lawyer, they may ask a general counsel friend who they have used. When that person recommends you, the attorney seeking assistance will first Google you.

Let’s admit it – we all do that when we want to hire someone to help us.

What’s going to come up in Google? Your firm page and bio, of course, as well as any articles you’ve published, work you’ve done that’s been uploaded and shared via JD Supra, your LinkedIn profile and other social networking sites.  What would a general counsel think if they checked your LinkedIn profile and saw that you had two connections, no picture and just your firm name listed? They’ll think that you’re not tech savvy or you just don’t care enough to invest some time in developing your profile. 

Or, if they go to your LinkedIn profile and see that you’re connected to other general counsel that they know and respect, that you’ve posted a few recent articles that you’ve authored that relate to the issue they’re concerned about, and that you have all of your credentials, both professional and educational, listed, their decision to hire you will be reinforced.

Putting the initial investment into these social networking sites is worth it.

In the next post, I’ll go into detail about how to add contacts manually with a personal note, and suggestions for engaging with your new contacts.

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Photo of Lindsay Griffiths Lindsay Griffiths

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. She is a dynamic, influential international executive and marketing thought leader with a passion for relationship development and authoring impactful content. Griffiths is a driven, strategic leader who implements creative initiatives to achieve the…

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. She is a dynamic, influential international executive and marketing thought leader with a passion for relationship development and authoring impactful content. Griffiths is a driven, strategic leader who implements creative initiatives to achieve the goals of a global professional services network. She manages all major aspects of the Network, including recruitment, member retention, and providing exceptional client service to an international membership base.

In her role as Executive Director, Griffiths manages a mix of international programs, engages a diverse global community, and develops an international membership base. She leads the development and successful implementation of major organizational initiatives, manages interpersonal relationships, and possesses executive presence with audiences of internal and external stakeholders. Griffiths excels at project management, organization, and planning, writes and speaks with influence and authority, and works independently while demonstrating flexibility in thinking, especially in challenging situations. She also adapts to diverse and dynamic environments with constant assessment and recalibration.

JD Supra Readers Choice Top Author 2019

In 2021, the ILN was honored as Global Law Firm Network of the Year by The Lawyer European Awards, and in 2016, 2017, and 2022, they were shortlisted as Global Law Firm Network of the Year. Since 2011, the Network has been listed as a Chambers & Partners Leading Law Firm Network, recently increasing this ranking to be included in the top two percent of law firm networks globally, as well as adding two regional rankings. She was awarded “Thought Leader of the Year” by the Legal Marketing Association’s New York chapter in 2014 for her substantive contributions to the industry and was included in Clio’s list of “34 People in Legal You Should Follow on Twitter.” She was also chosen for the American Bar Association Journal’s inaugural Web 100‘s Best Law Blogs, where judge Ivy Grey said “This blog is outstanding, thoughtful, and useful.” Ms. Griffiths was chosen as a Top Author by JD Supra in their 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards, for the level of engagement and visibility she attained with readers on the topic of marketing & business development. She has been the author of Zen & the Art of Legal Networking since February 2009.