By Tom Liszka
LinkedIn is a wonderful social network that allows you to find out who your personal contacts know without actually asking them who they know. This is all aided by your contacts having a lot of their own connections, but having the ability to navigate through the contacts of your contacts is a great thing. If you’re thinking, “wait, where is this LinkedIn talk coming from?” then check out part one of this series, where I provide a brief overview of LinkedIn.
The more you build out your network, the more you increase your chances to search and be searched. Every search result is based on your first, second, and third degree connections. What does that mean? First-degree connections are people you are directly connected with because you have either accepted their invitation to connect or they have accepted your invitation. Second-degree connections are people who are connected to your first-degree connections. Third-degree connections are people who are connected to your second-degree connections. So, if you have a handful of first-degree connections and perform a search, your results will be much more limited than if you have 150 first-degree connections.
Think about it from someone else’s shoes. If they do not know your name but are searching for something in your profile, as long as you are a first, second, or third degree connection to them, you’ll show up in their search results. The example I always use for our IT-Ready students during LinkedIn training is including their CompTIA A+ certification within their profile. Our students will have a better chance of being found by a potential employer or recruiter searching for CompTIA A+ certified individuals if they have a lot of first-degree connections, which in turn leads to many second and third degree connections.
Having a large network of at least 50 connections is required to have an All-Star or “complete” profile. Users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn. Additionally, a large connection base generally shows that you are more involved in LinkedIn than the average bear and ads credibility to your personal brand.
Letting others know you are on LinkedIn is one of the easiest ways to build your network. You can achieve this by word of mouth or by including a link to your public profile in your email signature. However, when inviting others, be cautious when using the LinkedIn connection tool. It is easy to invite everyone from your address book, but it is also an easy way to get penalized because if any of the contacts you attempt to connect with click “I don’t know this person,” it goes against your LinkedIn connection record. Once five people click this button, you will not be able to connect with people without putting in their email address. It is a small penalty and easily avoidable if you know the person’s email address, but still a penalty.
As you grow your network, keep your profession or industry in mind. If you are in the information technology field, find others who are in that field. Naturally, you do not want to limit your network to only your profession or industry since having diversity is good, but focusing on like-minded individuals can be very beneficial.
The easiest way to find these like-minded individuals is through LinkedIn Groups. You can join up to 50 groups, which gives you plenty of opportunity to find and make good connections. After joining groups, mostly run by someone within, check out the activity. This is your chance to do some social listening without directly participating in the conversation. Are the topics being discussed up your alley? Are they too promotional and come across as spam? Only you can decide if you want to join the conversation with a “like” or a comment, but if the group is not offering what you expected, you can easily leave by hovering your mouse over the ‘Member’ icon at the top of the page, turning it to a ‘Leave’ icon, and clicking.
Growing your LinkedIn network gives you a true one-up on individuals who may be competing for the same employment opportunity as you. Who do you know that you haven’t connected with on LinkedIn yet? I suggest you get moving on that!
Tom Liszka is Manager, Social and Digital Media, at the Creating IT Futures Foundation.