Have You “LinkedIn” for Your Career Success?
As originally published on August 29, 2011
Mastering LinkedIn for Successful Career
Earlier this summer, I published a blog article on embedding sustainability for one’s career security. In that 3-part series, I committed to embarking on how networking is fast becoming a necessity rather than a luxury when it comes to securing our careers and professions. In this blog article, I will share some of my experiences on why, when, where, and how networking resources such as LinkedIn are becoming vital by the day.
In part I of this 3-part series, we will discuss what features are critical to your career while networking on LinkedIn. In part II we will focus in how to get those elements optimized at a deep dive level and stay abreast of techniques for value maximization from LinkedIn. In part III we will embark on benefiting from your network and ways to contribute in managing careers and/or business successfully with LinkedIn.
Sources for Networking
Several sources of networking that take a toll on our time are listed here for your information:
- LinkedIn –> Professional Networking
- Facebook –> Social Networking
- Twitter –> Tweeting News Networking
- Plaxo –> Birthday and Personal Profile Networking
- Flickr –> Photo sharing web resource Networking
While networking, one expects to gain access to people of different backgrounds and experience, however simply knowing them is not enough when it comes to sustaining one’s career success or even finding a job in the current unpredictable economy. LinkedIn touts the benefits of networking and gives an opportunity to manage one’s profile while looking for career progress and directions . This article focuses on the basics of LinkedIn profile creation and management and but will not delve into the deeper layers of profile content and design. A nice guide to this networking process has been published by Mr. Dan Williams [3, 4].
Phases of Professional Networking
1. Stage of Invitation (0-6 Months)
This usually happens when one gets invited or introduced and a burst in ego is associated as we feel better about ourselves. If several people have invited us by then, we usually pay less attention the incoming invitation unless it is associated with something special. So if you wish to eliminate the lethargy of the person who you are inviting, better make it a special one by putting some zest into it. Ask yourself some tough questions such as:
- Why should someone get up in the morning view your invitation and sign up or accept it?
- You called them and shared what LinkedIn or your network can do for them or
- There was something they desired and you showed them a way or
- Your content was much more tempting than a default LinkedIn invitation or
- Your track record shows value when you suggest or recommend or
- They were never invited by anyone and so felt obligated to accept
- Approaching via Items 2, 3, and 4 justifies a mutually valuable proposal!
2. Stage of Surge (2-12 Months)
In this phase an urge to surge causes a high outflow of invitations as one gets excited looking at the potential of simply making numerous contacts. The objective is merely brutal hits counts. There is no particular attention given to the nature of the hits somewhat like a shot gun approach. Inviting everyone under the sky and making that profile grow to 100 %.
What LinkedIn has wisely done is to qualify the profile based on factors other than mere grunt count of accepted invitations at the first level. This can include number of endorsements, extent of profile saturation with positions held in the past, associations, activities of professional value, high school and college related educational institutions and affiliation. There are some suggestions in this phase as listed below and being aware of these is the first step toward leveraging value from LinkedIn:
- Number of 1st levels is not necessarily a measure of value in networking
- The outcome of the relationship is a direct measure of value
- Inviting a professional that has similar or interests of significant value
- The invited professional may become a customer, vendor or hiring manager
- Professional objectives need to be related directly to purpose of invitation
- Networking time is money and so seek progress in career and/or business
- Yes there are LION networkers, however, they are not paid to achieve it
- Accepting or inviting anyone causes unnecessary homepage traffic
3. Stage of Segregation (1-3 years)
In this period one starts screening, selecting, and becoming choosier on who they invite and accept based on experience in the past two stages. One should gain enough confidence to openly ask questions such as: Is there some project or assignment or an activity of common professional interest associated with the invitation? If you are inviting them state a few options with a sincere intention by doing your homework on their background and interests. Don’t feel bashful, as it only sends a strong message to make this a worthy networking relationship.
I often get asked that not every professional may have something common to work on. I then ask why bother networking with them and why not find someone else then? LinkedIn also does a great job in its algorithm of taking key words from your profile and suggesting potential members who may have something common based on their key words. So the more key words you use to describe your profile, the higher the chance of finding people with a related interest. To ensure that your segregation stage is worth it, you need to demonstrate the value by executing activities that result in what LinkedIn and employers call “recommendations” also understood as endorsements. Some points worth navigating through this stage could be:
- Opportunities of common interest and mutual value could be:
- Publishing an article or paper in a common field of interest
- Working to a solve a business problem resulting in value
- Assisting in an analytical exercise for a logical decision
- Share excerpts of a published book [5, 6]
- Demonstrating how to use a specific software or application
- Conducting a web search toward some professional need
- Key is executing something for the other thus demonstrating value
- Publishing an article or paper in a common field of interest
- There is no dearth for opportunities if you dig deep you will find several
4. Stage of Satisfaction (Past 2 years)
In this phase you will experience a great sense of achievement and joy as you made a significant difference in another professional’s career and/or business. In this century this is a rare occurrence and reaching out to others makes that difference in your relationship growth and maturity even if you are yet to meet them in person. I have worked with a few professionals without having to meet them and benefited from that engagement in a relatively short period of time. Each relationship is unique and so don’t expect all of them to turn out the same.
Be prepared for some collateral damage in time invested that may not bring anything today or even in the future. It does give you a better sense of pride and self esteem that not all that we do need to bring fruit or value and on many occasions. It is a seed we sow and harvest without any motives other than seeing it grow and more of a self esteem.
Often, a business will give away samples at their own cost as a measure of goodwill and consider this is goodwill networking activity. Since we do invest our time which is a precious commodity without storage value, make sure you are working with someone who would appreciate it and mirror the commitment.
Recall networking members are most likely not your manager or sub ordinates working under you or with you, it is purely an activity in networking. Look for signs early on and determine if it is worth your time to proceed and have an open dialogue on milestone achievements and review. It only protects your reputation as well as theirs and more importantly sets the stage for some aspects down the road that we will be discussing. At this point, it is important to sustain the discipline and then move from a level of “satisfaction” to “delight”.
To sustain your passion and willingness to network find something of value that would motivate you such as publishing on LinkedIn, discussion forums on different topics within several professional communities. Some of these activities could include:
- Engaging in professional memberships to address members’ needs
- Improving your language and communication skills by asking appropriate questions
- Responding to questions and doubts raised by other members in the forums
- Taking time out to write someone a note of thanks or an endorsement
- Keeping the live contacts wet, warm, and engaged periodically
5. Stage of Synchronization (2-4 Years)
In this phase you begin to realize that by focusing on what a member desires and needs that you could provide, you are bound to receive what you wished for. By this each and every member has a need or desire, however has been unable to achieve it for several reasons.
When you start assisting and helping members in your network toward those objectives for which they are serious and sincere, your value as a professional increases and you are now a walking target for being invited if you are on the open networking zone. Once you reach this stage of synchronization, you are likely to experience the following:
- You receive more invitations than the ones you send out on a regular basis
- You can be selective and specific on who gets into your network at the 1st level
- You will increase your rate of networking (RoN) characterized by my 8 Es (Part II Deep dive):
- Educational background – Leveraging via high school and college your alumni
- Experience or Entry Level Professional – Benefiting from education and profession
- Extension of Network – Number of Professionals at different levels
- Engagement with Network Member – Activity of interest to the network
- Entrepreneurial Skills of Networking Professional- Value added for network
- Endorsements from Members in your Network – Credibility and reputation
- Efficiency of member Interaction in the Network – Publish and relate to your network
By mastering these 8 Es, you can increase your control of leveraging power within your LinkedIn network. You create a pull when it comes to invitations, job inquiries, and business opportunities for short and long term projects.
6. Stage of Sustainability
In this higher state of networking, you can sustainably control your efforts and time to achieve your goals and objectives while leveraging on LinkedIn toward your career security. In this stage, you can also seek the following with a higher success rate compared to any other stages discussed above:
- Able to resource employees or sub contractors for your needs
- Pull customer inquiries by sharing your LinkedIn profile
- Receive unsolicited invitations from recruiters for online job applications
- Share announcements and significant developments on your home page to a large network
- Speedily seek a shift in employment based on the industry and type of employer you desire
- Able and bold enough to share your value proposition at the work place
- Available to mentor, and guide younger professionals in their path of career success
The LinkedIn networking resource is not utilized to its fullest extent as many of us do not fully comprehend the process of networking. The advent of the internet has only made it easier to avoid having to get out there in person and invest the time. Likewise, the time saved in the pre-internet days of networking can be easily invested on the telephone and other voice based communication devices to develop the relationship to meet people professionally online. LinkedIn has provided that opportunity to take control and enhance our professional careers in this 21st century.
Conclusions and Recommendations
While networking forums may not be revealing their bag of tricks, a logical analysis and experience clearly indicates a linkage between what one does and their achievements in a networked world like of this nature.
In today’s world the first thing someone in general will source. Over the last 7 years since I have been introduced to LinkedIn, I have benefited more because of how I leveraged it as a process and the great professionals available and willing to engage in similar area of interest as I do. I thank all of my 1st level members in my network for having patiently listened and worked with me toward our mutual goals and objectives. Its immediate help could be in your hiring process, job seeking efforts, quick guidance to seek career mentors. There are two sequels to this article with the topics as shown below.
- Part II (of III) will be – A LinkedIn deep dive for networking success!
- Part III (of III) will be – Successful Career Management via the LinkedIn approach!