This past weekend I read a book excerpt in Fortune magazine entitled, The real way to build a social network. Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, co-authored The Start-Up of You, the book from which the excerpt was taken.
What got my attention in the first place was the opening: "Forget Dale Carnegie. He understood how important connections were, but missed out on the authenticity part which ... is the key to building a truly helpful professional network..."
Pretty bold statement, right? But for many of us who use LinkedIn every day, the authors are preaching to the converted. I know I don't get as much from LinkedIn as some, but it has become an invaluable tool.
A few thoughts for your consideration:
- I use LinkedIn to help clients with blind reference checking of candidates for sales and sales executive positions. Recently a client took my advice by looking at who I was connected to that might, in turn, be connected to a VP of Sales candidate they were getting close to hiring. Bingo. I was able to introduce the CEO with a number of close contacts who generously spent a lot of time with my client. The candidate never knew the conversations took place. He was hired last week.
- I always look someone up on LinkedIn before speaking with them the first time, or after not speaking with them after a long time. Amazing how things change for people. New company, new position, new contacts. Conversations are so much more productive when you get a fix on the other person's perspective.
- When someone I know contacts me to network their way into a new position, I'll often suggest they look through my connections. I'm generally willing to make introductions, although recommending them is out of the question for me if I haven't worked with them directly. The book makes another point. Don't wait to start networking when you're looking for a job. Take the time to build a network based on mutual value before that need arises. I completely agree with that.
- I cull my connections regularly. I'm not a collector of connections on LinkedIn. In fact I think those that are miss the point of real networking. I believe it's the quality of the relationships that determine how networked you are, not the number of names you can collect. For that reason I don't accept connections from those whom I don't know, have not been recommended to me, or with whom I don't have something in common. I (almost always) send a reply which explains my position, assuring them that my unwillingness to connect with them isn't personal. I expect some get offended anyway, or think I'm odd.
- I feel the system is being abused when someone wants to connect with me, but can't take one minute to overwrite the ubiquitous, "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn." Take a minute and tell me what I can do for you, or even better, what you can do for me, or even better than that, what we both can do for someone else.
- Salespeople who are not looking for a job should construct their LinkedIn profiles centered on the value they have delivered for their customers through each of the positions they have held. Those who are looking for a job should stress sales performance.
- I'm not big on recommendations. I have a few that are important to me, but I don't publish others. I think they are, for many, part of a profile-expanding quid pro quo approach. In those cases, I don't even read the recommendations.
- I'm a little miffed at LinkedIn. There is no iPad app. I don't keep up with iPad app development news. I wonder when the iPad app will happen. Anyone know?
- I've used both LinkedIn ads and job postings. The job posting facility worked very well when ESR was searching for another analyst last year.
- The groups and discussions are all over the map. Some groups are tightly controlled. That's good. Others are like the wild West. If I want to get updates on new discussions from some groups, I get barraged with spam. If I turn off the notices, I'll surely miss that occasional important discussion I need to know about. With all that said, I spend some time each week commenting on others' posts.
- By all means, have someone read through your profile. I have a problem with professional profiles that contain very noticeable grammatical errors and misspellings. I've seen some profiles where the names of companies have been misspelled by those that worked there.
- I don't quite get it when people don't include a photo in their profile. Do they know how to import one? Do they have a photo? Do they care?
- Finally, if you're going to ask me for a favor, please don't include me on a Linked in (or any other) distribution list. Especially don't begin the mass email with, "Since you are someone I trust and respect..."
I'd love to hear whether you agree with my points or have others points you'd like to add. Comment below.