[ Something in addition to your résumé ]
Unless you’re working the fry machine at McDonald’s and don’t care about corporate ladders and ambition or you’re a superstar athlete or singer, I believe you could seriously benefit from having an effective LinkedIn profile. Now owned by Microsoft, LinkedIn claimed 500 million users of its network in April this year, across 200 countries and territories. Available in at least 23 languages, LinkedIn is much more than a networking platform.
Opportunity knocks, will you hear it?
Why is LinkedIn a platform?
Whether you are an individual or a business, LinkedIn provides an opportunity for you to connect with your peers as well as your target audience. But it is not enough to simply be present and to have a profile – you need to know how to capitalise on it. You need to have the bare minimum in terms of a presence and you also need to know how to use the platform effectively.
What happens when you have a great presence and you’ve learnt how to use the platform well? Many things.
For one, you begin to get noticed by many people, both within and outside your industry and your geography. You have an opportunity to showcase your work, talents and skills, thereby getting endorsements, recommendations and interest in what you do.
You may get invited to join projects. You may be headhunted. If you point people to your website, you may begin to get traffic to it. Done right, you will get people – the right people – wanting to connect with you and therefore, you begin to grow your network with the audience you are interested in developing. You can be found.
1, 2, 3 connections
The people in your network are called connections on LinkedIn and making a connection is relatively easy to do. You find the types of people you would like to connect to and you reach out to them, requesting to connect.
These could be filtered by any number of criteria including by country, keyword, organisation or job title. You can even search people by name. You can easily send a connection request. When you do so, the automated pre-filled message is used. But it is more advantageous to personalise things by adding a short note to introduce yourself when sending your connection request. You do this so that people understand the context and it does not come across as simply a numbers game to increase your connections.
But here’s the beauty of making connections. The possibilities really open up.
You have first degree connections. These are the people you are directly connected to either because you’ve accepted their invitation to connect or they have. But there are also second and third degree connections.
The second degree connections are people who are connected to your first degree connections. You will see a “2nd degree” icon next to their name when you search them. You are free to invite them to connect.
The third degree connections are people connected to your second degree connections and similarly, they will have a “3rd degree” icon next to their name.
Then, there are connections you can make with fellow members of the various LinkedIn Groups you are a member of. These people are also considered to be part of your network because you share a group.
Depending on the degree of connectivity with all of the profiles you find, it can be as easy as sending an invitation to connect, sending a free message (to any of your existing connections) or reaching out through an InMail, which is the paid messaging system within LinkedIn. InMail is how you communicate with someone you are not connected to (you will need to be a Premium subscriber to use InMail).
The barriers to communication are lifted. Opportunities can be explored at the click of a mouse. Geographic location ceases to be an obstacle as you focus on key people within your network to build relationships with. While nothing beats the ability to drive closer and more meaningful connections than face to face contact, there is so much potential and opportunity to explore even with the connections you build across these geographic barriers.
You’re also able to leverage the network to connect with thought leaders, influencers and experts in a way you would never have been able to do before.
Manage your risks
However, as with many other things, it’s not advisable to put all your eggs in one basket. This means don’t build a presence only on and rely exclusively on LinkedIn. This is a third party platform which means you are investing time and effort in an area which you do not completely control. Building a profile and a network takes time and you do not want to have your efforts go to waste.
The issue with third party platforms is third party rules. Rules change, new management teams come in and companies get sold, merge or worse, close down. And all of this affects your profile as well as the connections you’ve built. Sometimes, the changes may affect you drastically in which case you may shift to another platform or just leave it completely. If you keep this in mind, then the choices you make about what other activities you pursue as well as how you retain your connections will keep you better protected.
Work on building connections physically as well through networking events, coffee dates and other face to face opportunities.
Build your own platform by having your own website, whether it is a simple profile site or a blog to develop a community around a topic you care about.
Do you need a LinkedIn profile today? Perhaps the better question may be, “Can I afford not to?”
What do you think?
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