Mastering the LinkedIn Process to sustain an optimized profile!

Posted on: May 24th, 2013 by admin No Comments

By Dr. Shree Nanguneri

As originally published on August 31, 2011

Mastering LinkedIn for Successful Career

Part II

07-Mastering-the-LinkedInIntroduction

In our part I this week, we initiated the blog with an introduction to the general features of LinkedIn and what one can think of while riding the network to plan their career and business success. In this second sequel (Part II), we will take deep dive and probe into the elements that go behind a successful networking strategy on LinkedIn.

The LinkedIn website by itself doesn’t lend itself to a transparent process that helps its members to exploit all available features. So one learns by either associating with someone who has figured it out or trial and error the process with some logical thinking on what make and breaks networking. In this sequel, I will share some of my experiences on sharing those critical elements with you to help you understand the process and leverage the system to your career and professional benefits.

 Disclaimer:

I don’t work for LinkedIn in any shape or manner and do know of several professionals who work there and haven’t had any conversation with anyone who is an employee of LinkedIn nor is LinkedIn paying or rewarding me anything to author this blog. It is out of my own interest and initiative that I have come up with this topic knowing how many of you out there can leverage and benefit.

Elements of a LinkedIn Profile

The elements of a process are like operational inputs (Xs) of a process that one can dial, day-in and day-out to achieve his desired outputs. So we all want to achieve a few outputs from engaging with a networking activity on LinkedIn some of which are listed below:

  • Divulge ourselves and not be the world’s best kept secret
  • Sounds eerie, while some of us never go beyond registering on LinkedIn
  • Share information of interest to employers and customers instead of filler-ups
  • Modify our profiles to consequential events instead of activity based content
  • For a first impression as a hiring manager/customer would you seek activity or results?
  • Increase our presence and exposure to seek growth and stability in our career/profession
  • Focus on results achieved for your employers and customers as opposed to anything else!
  • If results aren’t discussed, consider removing it and generating some reader white space

The corresponding Xs to the outputs listed above are to be seen in our profiles as we network. Right from a very young age we have been so output focused and it is critical in some areas while at some point, we need to pay attention to our readers, audience, hiring managers, customers current as well as future potential.

It is true that focusing on the output can only tell us what has happened and not reveal how it happened. So likewise, the first impression of a networking professional is to focus on your output as shown above. Thus your outputs become inputs for such decision makers such as:

  1. Should I interact with this professional and accept his invitation on LinkedIn?
  2. Do I contact this person and send him an invitation myself on LinkedIn?
  3. Would it be worth my time to visit his profile in detail toward items 1 and 2?
  4. As a manager can I visualize him on an 8-10 hour day focusing on results for my group?
  5. Being a potential customer to his services, would he exceed my needs if I engaged him?
  6. Simply associating with him will I learn something by executing an interesting project?

So we now see that our profile content becomes a deal making or breaking step for the ones who browse and show interest in the networking process regardless of their role in this community. If our content is value added to such an audience (customers, hiring managers, and associates) then why do we constantly engage in not sharing our results with them on our content? Here are some of my very own observations over the past two decades (including my situation prior to my first job back in the early 90’s) that should get your executive attention to take action:

  • Most of us learn to become efficient on a reactive basis
    • We don’t seek mentors once we achieve a certain level of success
    • Seek mentors and counselors for your career as you would for your health
  • Our profiles comprise of our activities as opposed to our accomplishments
    • List the achievements which hiring managers and customers wish to know
    • You will get plenty of time to discuss activities during your interactions
    • Customer or hiring manager value achievements more than activity
  • Overwhelming majority use excessive digital content as opposed to URLs
    • Reduce digital content and increase web linkages

Thus we have realized that elements of our profiles are the inputs to the decision making minds of our invitees, customers, and hiring managers. So we will populate our profiles only with outputs or results achieved from our efforts and NOT the efforts themselves to increase the effectiveness of our networking successfully with LinkedIn.

Customize Our Outputs

Different customers need different inputs and so do our networking members. We have the following demographics of customers in our networking process in LinkedIn:

  • Hiring Managers of Corporations
    • Orient achievements in terms of their Key Performance Indices (KPIs)
  • Invitees on LinkedIn
    • Tailor achievements to reflect value add for success of acceptance
    • Use specific key words to gain traction and pull members to invite
    • Scribe your letters of invitation to openly display your intentions
    • Use LI modes of connection to increase credibility in your invitation design
  • Customers for Consulting Opportunities
    • Demonstrate with success stories of previous assignments and projects
    • Use visual and audio links to increase absorption of value proposition
      • Possible only with your website with uploaded audio and flash files
      • Your LinkedIn profile will comprise of such URL resources
    • Show multiples on return on invested consulting fee
    • Ensure you have endorsements from a variety of customers
    • When relevant, provide direct customer contact information
    • Upload legally acceptable audio and video customer endorsements
    • Include your own animated and flash files of track record
    • Ensure files uploaded on LinkedIn are secured with limited access
    • Seek technical assistance for such efforts and justify an ROI before investing

Your Profile and Network are your Strengths

While networking, some of the fears commonly associated can be seen below:

  • What happens when my boss who is also on LinkedIn comes to know of my profile?
    • Nothing happens and he knows you are value added and recognized
  • What will my customer think about my services to their competition?
    • Consult professionally, competently, and consistently
    • Do not share case studies with gory details revealing customer IP content
    • Stay away from “conflict of interest” type situations and discussions
    • While on LinkedIn, protect your customer’s and employer’s IP diligently
  • How will I update my profile and avoid embarrassing my boss at the workplace?
    • You have gained credibility across the table over a long period of time
    • Start as early as possible and do not wait as the false fear only gets worse
    • Focus your profile content on delivered accomplishments and nothing else

Having an unknown fear will weaken your networking strategy and so be proud of what you have accomplished and what you will. The reasons for such a fear are based on a few possible facts around your profile:

  • There are less people with hiring authority on your network
  • There are less people with contract signing powers on your network
  • Your network needs a critical mass of professionals that you can gain from
  • Ensure that your relationship with your immediate manager is open and clean
  • Reach out and assist members in your network and deliver value outside of work
  • Diversify the industry and background of your network to increase value

So we have seen that the unknown and apparent fear can be overcome with action in the world of networking. Our strength has shifted from a loyalty to our employers to loyalty to our network. This doesn’t mean that we become disloyal to our employers or customers, but simply that our network stays for a long time, even if our hiring managers or customers tend to drift away.

8 Es Rate of Networking (RoN)

We discussed earlier in part I that the RoN needs to be maintained at a certain level beyond mere increase in the number of 1st level members in our network on LinkedIn. This means that not only should you gain a steady increase of members but also achieve something of mutual value with the very same members. Each of the 8 components of the networking value is described to help you understand its critical nature.

  • Your Educational Background
    • Start compiling and searching for your college and high school classmates. The relationship was long enough few years to sometimes decades that it is totally worth revisiting that and integrating it with your career. They know you a whole lot better and are reminded of those great days in many emotional ways to bond again in life. Of course leave the bullies alone unless there is a special reason to revisit with them. You would be surprised to find how some of them turned out to achieve similar feats that you have.
    • Visit with the Alumni office when possible and register your name and get in touch with them. The LinkedIn way is much easier and less complicated if the Alma Mater is out of town or out of state or country for some of us.
  • Experience or Entry Level Professionals
    • Your college education and profession are the immediate links to increasing mutual value between you and your networked member. Areas of common interest, work related goals and objectives can be shared on a philosophical basis without a conflict of interest. Find the right member to meet on a professional basis (virtual or personal meeting).
    • While meeting a professional of the opposite gender, this could be a delicate issue and so take someone with you to ensure your interaction is safe and secure. Offer them the same to bring company and this sets a level of comfort and credibility for the members involved. To avoid any embarrassment, arrange the meeting at a public location during one of your professional gatherings so that company is present by default. Offer them to invite at least one friend to help them feel likewise. Discuss topics and then take it to the next level of projects or assignments on a virtual basis. These projects or assignments can be anything as discussed in one of the categories below.
  • Extension of Network
    • The number of Professionals at different levels in your network is key to the diversity and in order to create this diversity you may want to select a variety of titles and responsibilities at an early stage of your networking. Simply signing up your own professional kith and kin is not an efficient way to build a network of lasting value.
    • By associating with professionals all the way from board members to students you tend to understand the entire value chain and be able to draw and contribute at different levels. Additionally this diversity cuts the boredom and offers fresh thinking and different environment from the daily rut.
    • Find professionals at different levels and invite them into your network while ensuring that they are serious and sincere. If they are just looking to increase their number to become a LION in networking then it is not likely to do any good mutually.
  • Engagement With Network Members
    • Activity of interest to the network is key and this is one of the most feared and evaded areas but truly the best way to extract and provide value in return on a mutual basis. Your different levels of members in your network both background and experience continue to have needs in several areas as envisioned below (at least one of them applies to you):
      • Short term projects – not more than 90 days to effect the bottom line
      • Quick and easy assignments in a week or two
        • Some type of analytical skill or database management tool or technique you can share and bring immediate value
        • A resource they need so bad that you just showed them the way. I have had interns search the internet and source several tools and techniques in the area of applied statistics and saved them more than thousands of $ in software purchase costs but yielding the same value otherwise.
        • Publishing a paper or article or even a blog or book can be a great way to find areas of common interest.
        • Some counseling activity resulting in a desired state of progress such as a referral or job opportunity or even a resume critique. In some cases this activity may be either paid for to contain the commitment or bartered for some type of value add as in a temporary assignment that could help the other person.
        • Never go to a network member and use the word “help” as it insults their intelligence. So use words such as assistance, guidance, counseling, mentoring, and service or last choice, “paid advice.” Secondly, do not assume their time is of no value and proactively bring up the topic of money or fee or something you can do to compensate for their services. Once you do that you are likely to lose the momentum of that networking relationship. Offer and then let them refuse it or simply say I appreciate it and you do not need to do anything in return. If this is the case, make sure you bequeath them a stellar endorsement once your objectives are accomplished through their support.
  • Entrepreneurial Skills of Networking Professional
    • In the word of internet today, the principles of entrepreneurship for business owners, employed professionals and even students can be practiced without a conflict of interest via the LinkedIn networking strategy. There seems to be no other better time now than ever to execute such skills and gain mutual value. We are referring to business opportunities that can be shared between professionals like how partners execute. For those that lack the experience, make sure you seek the proper legal guidance before engaging in such activities, especially if it involves investing significant efforts, money, and time.
    • As a networking member it is likely to damage your belief and self esteem in others and so avoid this risk and seek guidance. If something is good today it is certainly better tomorrow in some other form or shape.
  • Endorsements from Members in your Network
    • LinkedIn used to term them as endorsements in the past and now classify them as recommendations. Your credibility and reputation here on the recommendations is based on how the world of scientific literature publishing operates. If you recall they told you to refer articles in your paper to link the work with what has been done in the past.
    • Second they mentioned that the reference you quote is also important based on where else they have been referenced or their own publications. Similarly, the professionals on your network recommending you also need to be someone who is recommended plus have an established track record and also recommended by others.
    • In this area, our Guru of networking Mr. Dan Williams operates what I call a (a record low Members-to-Recommendations MTR Ratio). If you look at his track record he is teetering at a bleeding MTR ratio of 2.0 which means one out of every two persons on his membership have seen value in what he does and offers for his network. I had set a goal of 5.0 and reached 10.0 gradually over the last 5 years.
  • Dos and Don’ts of seeking and giving endorsements:
    • Do not ambush your LinkedIn members!
      • Ambushing means signing up someone on LinkedIn and then asking them for an endorsement prior to developing the relationship
      • Even if you have worked and delivered value at work it is impolite to ask for an endorsement immediately upon signing them up on LinkedIn.
      • Inviting them on LinkedIn when they are already members and then pouncing on them virtually for an endorsement shows desperation which is not good at all. Imagine someone did that to you!
      • Do not consider asking for an endorsement based on how long you know them or just because they are nice or kind enough to give one. Let them do so voluntarily or you wait till the time is right.
      • Do ask for endorsements when the time is right and ripe. So what is the magic time when it is right and ripe?  This is usually recognized by several indicators some of which are shown below:
        • Projects of value to them have been executed and you have received some form of recognition or praise in a public environment.
        • Assignments you completed for them which has blown them away and offered significant value to their career or profession.
        • Short term exercises and support or assistance paid or unpaid that delivered beyond expectations.
        • Clearly discussed your plans for change in your job or an internal promotion for which their recommendation would make a difference. This job related matter is a delicate one and so treat it with respect and design your communication in writing and keep it professional and open. To seek a successful response I will discuss the sample content that usually works in the final sequel this week.
        • An endorsement on the net is usually means something credible and professionals rarely make up something as their reputation is at stake.
        • Finally, earlier in this decade corporations advised their employees to refrain from endorsing previous or existing employees to avoid liability issues. In today’s economy they tend to take a softer view as they are accommodating of needs of people looking for jobs.
        • So a recent case where I heard that a manager who once professed no endorsements and insisted his team as well, is now actively seeking the same endorsements to help transition himself to his next career move. What a hypocrisy one might say? So recognize that your endorsement is private and you don’t have to launch it right away and can store it till you need to use it on a rainy day.
        • Do not hesitate to endorse someone unsolicited if you see that they have done an excellent job and in today’s world send them the same and add a cover letter stating why you did it offering the choice to launch it on LinkedIn. They may sometimes not be ready to launch it and may want to store it for reasons of their own. No offense to be taken.
        • LinkedIn or professionals will evade this topic as it is a very delicate one and so when you seek endorsements just make sure you deserve it by any stretch of imagination. Secondly be open to a delayed response and do not push or resend it and irritate the recipient of the same.
  • Efficiency of Interaction with members in the Network
    • The efficiency and effectiveness of your interaction with the members in your network will influence the level of success you can achieve. It also has an impact of the value you can bring to them likewise. It is always a two-way street in the world of networking on LinkedIn. You invest the time, and efforts, and in general it comes back in multi folds.
      • Treat them like your associate or customer or employer and understand that constant communication and value is shared to keep that relationship warm.
      • Share resources and ask often if the resources you shared brought value or was a disturbance to their busy day. They will let you know right away.
      • The interaction can also be matched by introducing them to some of your network members who they may benefit from. Recently I introduced two professionals that I knew for the last few years and it was time to do so as one of them moved into the same city as the other. This can be of great help as the spouse (female) of my network member can socialize with the other member female) and it brings immediate value especially when one just relocates to a new city and state within a country. When done abroad, it adds more value as the loneliness reduces significantly when you find someone from your country back home so close to you.

The 8 Es of networking could influence your career and business when properly applied. The principles, ethics and moral of networking on LinkedIn can be compared to a double edge sword and since we deal with a lot of digital information and content, using the wrong language in a forum may cause extreme damage to your hard earned relationship. It is not worth engaging in a hissing contest on the net and so shut out the emotions out of your text and focus on the topic and purpose.

Conclusions and Recommendations

In this sequel we dug into the deeper levels of networking on LinkedIn and showed you how the evolution through the 6 stages of networking could turn out for you. Even in today’s economy such revelations are rare and it is not easy to find such deep dive tactics let alone the resources to network successfully. Fortunately, I have been blessed with some of the great professionals in my network and I am indebted to them since the days we met and worked together in different environments and roles.

Do not let your effort to succeed with the networking strategy be derailed by a not-working strategy. By this I mean our efforts can sometimes be misconstrued and so there are very few rules here with the advent of the internet. So I am always advised about being cautious and show patience no matter what the situation demands. Today’s employee or customer may become tomorrow’s vendor or supervisor. Yesterday’s subordinate may become today’s partner and so general rule is treating them like customers and we cannot go wrong easily.

I am thankful for those that have bestowed the endorsements on my profile solicited and unsolicited and pray that I have the inner strength to deliver value on a continuous basis for these members over a long period of time. This sequel will be followed with the last Part III – Successful Career Management via the LinkedIn approach!

 

Referenced Literature

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