This is for you if you’ve NEVER used LinkedIn and aren’t sure what it’s all about. If you’re ALREADY signed up – make sure you read this post by our very own Thea..
“It’s Not WHAT You Know…It’s WHO You Know, (and who your friends know, and who THEIR friends know…)”
This statement’s never been more true. I’ve seen countless examples of people making progress in their career simply because they found the right person, got in front of them and asked nicely. It’s happening every day, right under your nose, and it’s happening on-line.
Too many people forget about the “networking” side of “social networking”, or perhaps they don’t realise it’s possible.
For years, I was one of them. Very active on Facebook and Twitter, I thought those platforms were the only ones I needed to be on.
I didn’t see the point and couldn’t be bothered going through ANOTHER sign up process, writing ANOTHER profile about myself and connecting with ANOTHER bunch of people some of whom I was already spending too much time communicating with anyway!
Turns out, I was missing out big time and in the last few months I’ve moved to put this right.
My honest opinion is that LinkedIn is the most powerful of all the social networks and my aim with this week’s blog is to explain why and give you the information you need to get started.
You’ll find the site at http://www.linkedin.com and in a nutshell it’s a tool to connect you with people you want to do business with.
One local business realising there’s a company down the road that can do their stationery cheaper than their existing supplier.
A freelance journalist showcases their work, makes contact with a features editor and gets a new story commissioned.
Or a sales exec using LinkedIn to keep track of key decision makers they want to pitch to.
The key difference between LinkedIn and other networks is there’s a lot less nonsense!
In fact, in my experience, there’s no nonsense or uneccessary noise. LinkedIn is a serious network for serious people who want to give their career or business a powerful injection.
And that injection comes in the form of contacts or connections as they’re called on this site.
Suppose I decide I’d really like to work for CNN. Without LinkedIn I’d end up e-mailing a cover letter and CV to someone I’ve never met or spoken to, probably pulling a contact off their corporate website.
Chances are – no matter how hard I tried to sell myself and catch their attention – I’d never hear back, because they probably won’t be looking for anyone right now. The recipient might not even be the best person for me to contact. And even if they promised to “keep my e-mail on file” would they actually remember me if they were ever looking to recruit someone with my skills and experience? You know how it works – highly unlikely.
Even if I pulled in favours from existing friends – maybe I’d hassle Michelle McManus to get me a number for Simon Cowell who could pass a message on to Piers Morgan who could mention me to his producer – it would likely end in failure and desperation at best and some strained friendships at worst.
But CNN is a huge organisation and since I’ve worked in media since 1996 maybe there’s a chance I already know someone who’s there. Or maybe one of my contacts can introduce me.
LinkedIn makes it easy for me to find this person, with very little effort.
It’s based around the theory of “6 Degrees of Separation”, that you’re never more than 6 steps away from anyone else on the planet. And by delving deep within your network of contacts you can get yourself in front of absolutely anyone.
LinkedIn does all this automatically and by scanning all your contacts, and all their contacts and then all their contacts you can see instantly how many steps you are away from the person you want to connect with, and who can help get you there.
There’s hardly any spam. And LinkedIn isn’t the sort of social network where you can play games, or waste hours posting pictures or catching up on news and gossip the way you do with Facebook. It’s primarily a business or career building tool and most people use it as such.
Signing up and getting started is free, easy and will be familiar if you’re on any of the other sites. Where Facebook prompts for hobbies, interests and favourite movies, LinkedIn is all about where you’ve worked and what college or university you went to.
It’ll scan your e-mails to see who from your contacts is already on LinkedIn and invite them to connect with you. Then, using your employment history it’ll search out all those former colleagues you’d forgotten about and suggest you might want to connect with them.
Suddenly, it just became very powerful. Because that receptionist you used to chat with every lunchtime before they went to London might now be PA to a key player in a major firm. Or maybe he or she has started their own business and is looking to expand. And now you can be back in touch with them.
Maybe no official vacancy exists right now but they’d make an exception for someone with your track record, who they’ve worked with before and trust.
And look – here’s someone very senior in CNN who’s in the 2nd tier of my network – that is, they’re one of my contacts’ contacts. And I can get an introduction or send them a message.
There might even be someone you haven’t seen since school, who wasn’t a “friend” and you didn’t stay in touch with but who’s now ideal for a business relationship.
The founders of LinkedIn say you should only connect with people you know and trust to give a good reference if they were asked about you. “Keep it professional” is the golden rule.
The power of LinkedIn means more vacancies are being filled without ever being advertised. And you can even follow companies so you get details of all their new hires and find out who’s just been recruited and for what position.
Can you really afford not to be on it?
Give it a try and I reckon you’ll quickly be impressed. And in this blog, I’ve only talked about the main “free” features. If you’re willing to pay some money, there’s even more LinkedIn can do.
If you’d like to find out more about the power of LinkedIn why not contact any of the NS Design team – we’d be delighted to help.
Maybe you’re using LinkedIn already and can back up what I’ve been saying. Please share your experiences in “comments”.