Networking Tips to Start 2011 – #3

24 01 2011

Networking Tip #3

Build Your LinkedIn Network

Now that your LinkedIn profile is complete and up-to-date, the next step is to build your network so that LinkedIn becomes an effective networking tool.

Why build your LinkedIn Network?

  • To keep in touch with people you know by sharing your Status updates, and being able to read theirs.
  • To add to your network with people who are connected to people you know, or share something in common – Group, Company, Industry, College/University, etc.
  • To share and exchange knowledge and expertise with others.  Remember that networking is about sharing and building reciprocal relationships.  You will learn from others and help others.
  • “You Never Know” who you can help, and who can and will help you.
  • Here is a story of someone I met through LinkedIn and developed a mutually beneficial relationship (https://careerspecialist1.wordpress.com/2010/10/23/a-networking-story/)

The easiest way to find people you know is to utilize your email addresses.  From the Menu at the top of any page on LinkedIn, click on “Contacts”, then “Add Connections”.  Enter one of your email addresses, and then when prompted, enter your password.  LinkedIn will search your email addresses to match profiles that are attached to any of those addresses.  You can also download a contact list, for example, from Outlook.  You can then select who you want to invite to connect with you.

  • A Note of Caution: LinkedIn has the stated policy that you should only invite people you know (although there are numerous members with thousands and thousands of connections).  However, to save yourself potential trouble with LinkedIn, only directly invite people you know well.  You do not want someone to respond to your Invitation that they do not know you.  If you get 5 of these “rejections”, LinkedIn will restrict your account until you indicate that you understand and will adhere to their policy.  Then, you’re on “probation” and at risk of LinkedIn closing your account if this occurs again.
  • I usually send an email directly to people I know and ask first if they would like to connect, and if so, I then send them an Invitation or they send one to me.
  • Below, I will discuss other ways to reach out to people you find without sending them an Invitation.

You can also search using a variety of criteria – name, company, school, location, industry, position, etc.  You can do a simple search using the key word box at the top right of the home page – enter first name and last name and click the blue button to search.  You will generate a list of potential matches, if there are any.

You can also use “Advanced Search” – click on “Advanced” to the right of the search box.  A page opens with a variety of criteria (as mentioned above) with which you can conduct searches using any combination of variables.

  • Note:  LinkedIn will match the first name with variations such as “Michael” and “Mike”, “Robert”, “Rob” and “Bob”, “Susan”, “Sue” and Susanne”.  However, the last name has to be spelled correctly.
  • Note:  If you find too many matches, narrow the search by location, company, etc. – the location is based on the home zip code, not the company location.
  • Note: If you do not find who you are looking for, try different criteria.  Try a different version of the company name, or select “Current and Past” because you may not know if the person is still employed at that company.

When you find someone you know or would like to connect with, look for another way to get in touch with them, without sending them an Invitation.  Look through their profile for any contact information – email, phone, personal website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.  If they work for a company where you know someone else, you may be able to guess at their email address.  The best way to connect with people you don’t know is to share membership in the same Group.

  • Group members can send a message through LinkedIn (unless the member has disconnected this feature).

Look for common connections and get in touch with them, asking how they know the other person, and if they would facilitate an introduction.

  • LinkedIn offers an “Introduction” feature, but it is generally not very effective – it requires your connection to forward the Introduction Request to the person with whom you want to connect, and then that person needs to respond to the request.  Not every LinkedIn member receives notifications to their email, so unless they login, they won’t see the Request.  Same goes for LinkedIn messages and Invitations.

I have also called people that I found in LinkedIn, I explained how I found them and why I am calling.  This is not something that most people are comfortable doing, but I wanted to let you know that it is an option.

With whom do you want to connect?  It depends on how well you understand how to use LinkedIn, and how you choose to use the site.  I do not recommend that most people try to connect with hundreds and thousands of people – the Quality of connections is generally more effective the Quantity.  However, do not discount someone just because they work in a different field or for some other reason.  One of the principal values of LinkedIn is the ability to reach out to people through the people you know and with whom you connect.  A person in one part of the country has connections in another part of the country and so on.  A person in one field has connections with people in other fields, just as you do.

Other Recommendations:

  • Join Groups – groups related to your college/university alumni, current and past companies, industry, field and professional groups, etc.  It will expand your ability to connect.
  • Participate in Group Discussions to exchange knowledge and expertise with others.
  • Participate in Q&A for the same reason.
  • Look at the connections of your connections, and you may find people you already know.

There are lots of opinions about with whom you should connect and how many connections you should have in LinkedIn.  It is a personal decision.  I do recommend that you connect with those you do know, and keep an open mind about expanding your network.  LinkedIn is only as useful as your use.

Consider the math:  If you have 50 direct connections (#1’s) and they have 50 direct connections (#2’s), and those have 50 direct connections (#3’s), you have about 125,000 total connections in your network.  If you have 100, and so on, you have about 1 million total connections.  This increases your search capability and therefore, your networking ability.

LinkedIn is not immediately intuitive, so I encourage you to explore the various functionality, and seek the assistance and guidance of others who have more knowledge and experience using the site.  When I was first introduced to LinkedIn, I joined, but I was very reluctant for more than a year to really use it and build my network, until someone else started cluing me in on the benefits.  Now I am an avid networker with LinkedIn, with more than 1250 direct connections – I have met some interesting and wonderful people, I have reconnected with old friends and colleagues, and I have received direct business and referrals through my LinkedIn network.

Build your LinkedIn network, and build relationships!

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