Get it - Linkin Park, LinkedIn Park? Sigh, someone out there is saying "Daaavvvee" in a derogatory way. Anway, let's move on. I've been using LinkedIn, a powerful and popular networking software that is oriented toward careers; for about 3 years now.
In these times, as you've heard many times a strong network is a powerful asset. This year, I set a goal for 2009 to have 500 contacts. Here it is Q1, and to my surprise I've already blown through that goal. I'd like to share some tips with you that I've found useful:
- Be wary of 'scalp hunting'. I've had to reign myself in a few times where my motives were probably incorrect, that is to say to get a connection for a connection's sake, rather than to connect for a valid reason.
- Set LinkedIn as your homepage. That way I get the latest updates when I first open my browser.
- Watch the Connection Updates section very closely. It has not been uncommon for one of my contacts to connect with someone that I had lost track of, and then connect with them.
- Never use the "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn." default text for connecting. Doesn't show a lot of interest. Give at least one, and preferably two reasons why you would like to connect with that person.
- Make your invite reciprocal - when sending an invite, put yourself in the invitees shoes - why would they want to connect with you? What can you offer them?
- Use your yearbooks - it could be tedious but go through your yearbooks every now and then and look for old classmates on LinkedIn. Don't just focus on the 'most likely to succeed" people. I found one friend I had been close to many years ago and we had fallen out of touch. It was awesome to connect with him and catch up, he's now managing an architectural firm in Tokyo!
- Send a note once in a while. 500+ contacts is a lot of people to keep track of. Every now and then I'll send a note to one of my contacts - something along the lines of "hey just thinking of you, how's it going?" Give them an out, we're all busy: "No need to respond, just hoping all is well".
- Browse your connections. If your connection(s) have opened up their connection list for you to view, once in a while take a peek. You may find someone you know, or someone you would like to connect with.
- Watch for companies that have employees signing up for LinkedIn. I used to work for US Bank, and it was fascinating to see a few of my former colleagues pop up on LinkedIn, and then it spread like cream cheese on bagels! I remember one day when 50 (fifty) USB folk had joined LinkedIn.
- Review the "who's viewed my profile". Although it may not be a direct way to connect with people, it can be interesting to see who has looked at your profile and may give you some tips. Note that it is often indirect, that is to say that you may not always know who exactly has looked at your profile.
- Help other LinkedIn users. Remeber that what goes around, comes around! Because I do try to use a personalized connection, if someone has asked me to forward an invite to someone else I typically will know my contact well enough to not hesitate to do that.
- I'll finish with tips on making good use of groups. Groups have provided some good contacts for me, including those who I don't know (follow tips 4&5). Groups are one of the most powerful tools on LinkedIn. Let me expand on that:
- Look for groups related to your education, experiences, interests and/or hobbies. If we are connected, look at my groups. I not only have groups for my job experience, but other industry groups. My current position involves software, products, banks and credit unions. I look for goups in those categories.
- Hide some of your groups. I am a member of more groups than you see on my profile. They provide me with valuable information, but I don't want to come across as pretentious on my profile.
- Related to #12, I have had a few people want to connect with me through groups. In looking at their profile I have seen up to fifty groups or more before LinkedIn restricted membership to I think 30 groups. C'mon people! That's a sign to me of a scalp hunter. Some may disagree with me, but I call it like I see it. If you REALLY have a direction connection with a bazillion groups, hide some of them to appear more credible.
- Hide a duplicate group. I belong to two US Bank groups (there are probably more!) but I've hidden one of them. I think one is enough to display but that's just my take on it.
- Have a few groups related to your hobbies/non work related interests. On my profile you can see Kierkegaard. There's a whopping 17 (seventeen!) in the Kierkegaard group. It was started by a guy in europe and we've had some great conversations, as well as allowing me to make some international connections.
- Create groups! I've created two groups you can see on my profile, Hood to Coast and Legacy Corillian. As people have requested to join, we already have one thing in common (the group of interest) and maybe more. I often will invite them to connect with me as I add them to the group. I'm not offended if they decline! A funny story - Corillian was acquired by CheckFree, then CheckFree was acquired by Fiserv. I started the Legacy Corillian group, and then received a request to join from the original CEO who founded Corillian - "uh, well....OK.....".
- Be cautious about creating groups! I try to look for any notification that a logo is a registered trademark, with use of the logo by permission only. As a finisher of the Honolulu Marathon, I intended to create a group but will play by the rules and contact them for permission. When I get around to it!
- Use Group Discussions. Ask a question, or respond to one. Ask or respond with validity, to not just blah blah blah but with true intent behind the question or response. Again your credibility can be ascertained so keep that in mind.
In closing, use LinkedIn with integrity. To me, it's more than a social exercise, it's people - people who can help you and that you can help. Don't abuse that privilege!