LinkedIn profiles remind me of that Dr. Seuss book I had when I was a young lass. My Book About Me captured all the important facts you’d need to know about the essence of a person. Professionally, that’s how many people use LinkedIn. If you want to leverage LinkedIn to find a job or make a career change, great. But this gem of a resource can be so much more with the right strategic focus on your relationships.
When I first opened my account a few years ago I remember being told that LinkedIn was “just like Facebook only for business.” I immediately went to work building connections with people I’d worked with in my past jobs. And then I let my account sit stagnant for about a year because I was too busy working to check in.
One day I scrolled through my connection list and realized my relationships with these former and current colleagues were practically nonexistent.
It started to bother me. What I had was no more than just an eclectic collection of names, companies and titles. What I wanted was “connectedness.” Slowly I’ve been working on making a shift in how I view and effectively use LinkedIn. Instead of serving as a giant resume, I began utilizing LinkedIn to reach two crucial (and very satisfying) goals:
1. Build meaningful relationships with professional connections.
2. Discover and create new opportunities for face-to-face conversations.
You trust your friends–do anything for them, right? But when a stranger calls, you’re on alert for whatever it is he or she wants from you.
Imagine what happens when a former colleague logs into LinkedIn and sees your name and face in her inbox. You haven’t talked in five years.
Will she be suspicious that you’re popping back into her life out of the blue? Will he question your motive? Not if you are genuine and sincere about why you’re reaching out. The aim is just to say hello, catch up (if there is time) and perhaps mention a recent status change, common connection or upcoming professional event. In the future there will be a day when conversations lead to mutually recommending each other or introducing each other to second-or-third degree connections. But not this day.
Your ultimate goal is nurturing a deepening ongoing relationship that grows beyond just surface chit-chat. Conversations that lead to phone calls, ongoing dialogue and face-to-face meetings are good indicators that you are reaching that goal, but keep in mind that the relationship always takes priority over whatever professional benefit or opportunity blooms.
Be a giver. You’d be amazed at how flattered people feel when you offer something for nothing. Their status updates, group affiliations, posted links and recommendations are great places for ideas on offering them additional resources, congratulations and compliments, connections or anything else they might find of value. Your goal here is not to get something out of it, but to inspire them to engage relationally by being a trusted resource.
Your professional groups.
Look for local upcoming LinkedIn Group events to attend that will help you meet people or reconnect with those in your contact list. You can see the list of attendees or those who might attend and reach out to let them know you’re hoping to say hello. Keep in mind that the last thing you want them to feel is threatened by a professional stalker! If that person is not a connection, you can send an InMail explaining how the two of you are connected and look forward to seeing him or her at the event.
From time to time assess your LinkedIn connections. Scroll through your list, pausing at each face. Are you simply acquaintances? Are you growing toward being a valued resource to that person? Or could they imagine you as their friend?