The value of your (LinkedIn) connections

If you’ve read my earlier posts about LinkedIn you’ll know I’ve been on there for some time, but others – maybe including you – are getting started right now. One question you’ll want answered is: how are you going to make LinkedIn work for you? In this post I aim to give you at least the start of an answer.

Your LinkedIn profile, which I discussed earlier, will help you to keep track of:

  • the jobs you’ve had, the tasks you’ve performed
  • the clients you’ve helped
  • all of your courses

Oh, and people can read it if they like 🙂

(LinkedIn) Connections

Your LinkedIn profile’s not really something you’d get excited about. Why not? Simple – it’s all about your past performance. None of the above gives you any reason whatsoever to connect with people. If you’re fairly secure in your present job you may not see any reason to start connecting with a lot of people. After all, you see them at lunch, you get their e-mails…

You could connect with anyone you ever worked with. That means that your presence on LinkedIn also allows you to keep track of all the co-workers you ever worked with. Yay! … Nope. I’m still bored 😉

How to make LinkedIn work for you

The only possible way to make LinkedIn work for you is if you decide to join conversations and connect with people (including colleagues) with an eye on your future. Why? Because your future is unknown territory. Unless you did something really dreadful in a previous job, it’s not coming after you to club you on the head. But the future is a different place. One you haven’t visited yet.

Start by asking yourself what you want for your career in the next, say, 5-10 years. Now you may not be at all clear about the answer to that question. Scan the scenarios in the next few paragraphs. I’ll ask you questions in each one. Some of my questions are based on my own experiences at various points in my career.

You’re still studying (part time)

Will you be able to do parts of your study within this organization? Like getting an internship, or even working there as an employee while adding it as the job experience you would otherwise gain from an internship? Will you be able to write your thesis here? Is the company you work for part time likely to offer you a job after you graduate?

You’re looking for a career change

Does your current employer offer possibilities for your newly chosen career? If not, what organizations look better equipped to house the likes of you in the (near) future? What can you do by way of a hobby or as a volunteer that would qualify you (even at a basic level) within 4-10 months?

All you want is… job security

If you want, first and foremost, to keep your job because you’re happy where you are and you have a family and you don’t need the hassle right now: what do you know about the organization you’re in that might impact your chances of keeping your job? Are there other positions within your organization that you could move to if necessary? What skills can you learn that would make it easier to shift direction within your organization? Who else works in a team where you might end up if you had those skills? In other words, how can you make it more probable that a change will involve a new job in the same organization rather than having to look elsewhere?

Start by deciding where your priorities lie in real life

Suppose your organization is big enough to hold several positions you could fill if you wanted (or had to find another job) – it would make sense to get to know a few colleagues from different parts of your organization.

What if it’s not big enough? What if you’re in a tiny team that is more likely to shrink even further rather than grow in the future? What if there aren’t going to be any jobs after you graduate? In that case getting to know people in other organisations is important. But don’t forget the ‘network-happy’ people in your own organization who know absolutely everyone in your field of expertise!

What value can LinkedIn add to the connections you have in real life?

LinkedIn is a handy extension for real-life relationships. Connect preferably first in real life, then follow up by connecting on LinkedIn. Once you connect with anyone on LinkedIn, you can view their ‘updates’ which contain their every activity.

  • Some activities are alterations to their job title – you’ll know it if an ex-colleague starts in a new job, so you can send her a message about it.
  • If a connection who may or may not be in the category “companies/departments I wouldn’t mind working for” shares a great article about a subject you’re interested in you can comment on the article while also letting ’em know you’re still around.

All in all, the information you receive in the shape of LinkedIn updates gives you (extra) starting points for interacting with colleagues and other professionals – which is great if you’re NOT running into them twice a day. Your contacts on LinkedIn are not about instant results. They’re about staying in touch – and in the picture even though you, and they, are busy.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it. Or you may leave your thoughts about your (LinkedIn) connections in a comment below for me to read and reply to!

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