by Alan Royal
Jul 18 2016
After six years with a Vietnam government commercial enterprise, returning to the US reflected a lack of professional collegial individuals to interact with. In essence, I had no professional network. As a basis to re-establish a network, many advised that I needed to attend conferences and summits, where I could meet and connect with certain individuals in-person for mutual benefit. While this approach to networking has proven time and time again to be successful, it required time and a great deal of patience, which I simply did not attribute to myself.
As such, I turned to LinkedIn as a basis to undertake virtual professional networking. Three years later, I now stand at the 3,000 first degree connections milestone, reflective of being in the top five percent of connected executives. While this number might not seem material, whenever one of my publications or posts receives a lot of engagement (likes, shares, comments), the LinkedIn intelligence engine running in the background will share the post with second degree connections that can number up to 4.5 million.
New LinkedIn Members (or Less than 300 Connections)
As I did, BlueSteps members, who are new to LinkedIn or are not sure how to present their profile, can engage the services of a BlueSteps career advisor. BlueSteps' advisors have the specific knowledge and skills to optimize an executive's LinkedIn profile value. A differentiated LinkedIn profile presentation will materially impact success or failure in broader-based networking.
With an optimal profile revision ready for display, ensure the “notify your network" switch is on (unless you’re conducting a confidential executive job search). When profile changes are saved, existing connections will be notified. Afterwards, make a list of every individual you are not connected to, find them on LinkedIn, and send them personalized LinkedIn invitations to maximize your reach.
What many do not appreciate fully is the power of the intelligence engine running in the background of LinkedIn. When one posts or shares something that is well liked within first degree connections, it will automatically cascade to second degree connections. Try to look through the “People You May Know” menu selection regularly. The names generated there evolve with each new connection you make. When reviewing this list, I suggest to not only send connection requests to names which are familiar, but also those who will likely want to connect after reviewing your profile.
Also essential, especially in the early days of active network growth, is to publish and post valuable insights consistently. The more referential credibility one develops within his or her network, the more actively connections will share value contributions to others outside of network. Adding network value can be as easy as carefully watching news feeds. When you find a news piece that has informative value, simply share the link with a few sentences of rational why the particular news item should be of interest.
Mature LinkedIn Members (or More than 300 Connections)
The typical benchmark for baseline network maturity reflects reaching the 300 to 500+ connection milestone. At this point, a pivot of mind-set from that of “tactical network growth” to “strategic network growth” should be made.
The actions above are intended to generate a network through opportunistic on-boarding of connections. Going forward, seek connections with specific intent. No matter your career level, consider the profile of individuals which represent those at the next level of upward reporting. Carefully objectify the job titles, skills, and other attributes associated with individual who are most likely to represent attributes of next level reporting management. These individuals are your target connections. When this new target group has position openings, you want to ensure you're a part of the candidate pool under consideration. After deciding what additional new connections could add value to your network, send to each one of them an InMail with a desire to connect. Included should be rationale why they would want to connect. Demonstrate that through a review of their profile, you noticed some point of shared commonality. Ensure InMail’s are solely used to upward organizational connectivity.
Additionally, start joining LinkedIn Groups, which are intended to provide networks of individuals with similar interests. There are groups for individuals interested in digital marketing, international technology, various aspects of management practice, and the list goes on. Join the Groups which are most likely to represent your career target attributes. As a group member, self-identify yourself, through sharing to each group relevant and interesting news, ideas, and or observations of interest to the group. Group members who find one’s contributions to be of interest are likely to send personal network connection requests, which add additional personal connections adding personal network value.
LinkedIn Networking throughout Your Career
LinkedIn members can be broadly categorized as either passive or active. What I have provided are suggested behaviours of an active member seeking to ultimately source their next position through their LinkedIn network. As part of the peer group connection undertaking, one becomes accustomed to, and comfortable with, the use of the LinkedIn networking technology platform, both as it presents itself digitally, but also how it functions behind the scenes as a predictive analytical engine.
With acquired skills now in hand, focus on networking with a purpose for career advancement. Following the activities articulated above will generate a set of connections which reflect a network segment which could be a future employer. As you continue to actively participate within your core network overtime, there is a material probability that a strategic connection will self-identify as a hiring authority seeking to fill a new position.
While not directly noted, recruiters and search firms are very active on LinkedIn. Some of them will become part of your network, which provides another channel where future job opportunities could emerge as well. The key to optimal LinkedIn success reflects consistent effort to add connections, actively and regularly contributing innovative thinking to Groups and one’s personal network, as well as managing one’s network with a clear purpose.