Thanks to everyone who came to last night’s LinkedIn workshop. Everyone learned a lot in the very comfy couches at McAnns- I am sure the Pinot Grigio helped! One of the topics we discussed last night was connections. Here are some thoughts and helpful hints.
Why Your Connections Matter
Here are some important things to think about when reviewing the status of your LinkedIn connections.
First, are you connected to everyone you should be? As job seekers or professionals who want to position yourselves for new opportunities, your network is one of your greatest assets. While you talk with many people outside social media, connecting with them on LinkedIn can add a richness to your professional relationship. You can see what they are working on and what their priorities are, which you would only know if you spoke to that person every day. By having this information, you can easily add more value to your relationship by sharing relevant information or connecting them to others who could help with their current projects.
Second, do you use “offline” rules when deciding who you connect with on LinkedIn? That means that if you would feel comfortable communicating with a specific person at a cocktail party (for example, an executive at your company), you should feel comfortable requesting to add them to your network. If you would never speak to someone in that type of situation, it’s probably not a good idea to ask the CEO to join your LinkedIn network. When emailing someone to connect, always ask yourself, “What would I do offline?”
Third, for many industries and companies, influence matters. If you have less than 100 LinkedIn connections, how are you going to be a brand ambassador in your new job? While this does not mean you should add people to LinkedIn for the sake of increasing a number, it’s important to ask yourself if your current number of connections is an accurate representation of what you want other people to perceive about your professional network.
Assessing Your Network with LinkedIn InMaps
One of the great ways to assess your network is to use a new feature in LinkedIn Labs called InMaps. The InMaps application will create a colorful map of all of your LinkedIn connections and how they connect to each other. Connections with large dots are “super-connectors”- they are connected to many people, and in many cases, a number of people also connected to you. Below is my InMap, which I ran on January 30th and again on February 28th. I was fascinated to see how my network has changed and evolved in just a month. It has also given me a sense of some specific actions to take in my networking activity. Here is how I assessed my February 28 map of 390 connections and hopefully it can give you some ideas of how you could do the same.
1. I like how the map visualizes my trajectory as an entrepreneur. The red (Office of Teacher Recruitment and close supporters), green (other NYC Department of Education staff), and dark orange (Teach for America) clusters on the left are my base and are launching me toward the other parts of my life that I am growing, represented by my Fast Trac Entrepreneurship fellowship program network (cluster in pink) all the way to the right. By March 30th, I’d like to start to see the volume of dots on my map sway more to the right.
2. I had no idea how big my Teach for America alumni network was on LinkedIn. I should really communicate with those people more since we’re all committed to improving education. We should be mutually helping each other and I don’t feel like we do that enough.
3. The green cluster is my network from when I was Director of Project Management at The Princeton Review’s K-12 division. I left the company six years ago, but am still close with most of those people. That being said, I am not sure if they all know about what I am doing these days and I should look at that cluster. I am also not sure if I know about their current projects.
4. The light orange cluster is very small, but all people I have met through Twitter chats since September. I think it’s interesting that even though it’s just a few people, LinkedIn has found them to be influential. When I reflect on how those relationships have evolved over the last five months, that makes sense. I want to see that group expanded in the next month as those people have become my new tribe.
6. The light blue cluster are people from my sorority Alpha Gamma Delta. I write often that college was a transformative time for me, but I have very few people from college or grad school in my LinkedIn network. This floored me. I speak to people from my college days all the time, but socially. If one of them was searching for a job, I would hope they think of me as a professional who could help them and not just a friend. I would like to see where I can make this base more substantial in my LinkedIn network.
7. All of the gray dots are people who LinkedIn can’t associate with a group. They include people in education reform who are not DOE or TFA, recruiters, coaches, clients and others. Over time, I’d like to see some of these dots become visual clusters, especially the recruiter group. I was actually surprised that the recruiters weren’t their own group, but the map helped me see how disparate those connections are. Growing these clusters may take a few months as I network and do more coaching. For the recruiter relationships, I will also pay attention to the big dots on the map as those people can help me network and meet more people. I’d also like to see clients visually represented, but since they don’t know each other, I am not sure if that is a realistic goal.
Too often, we focus on what’s on our profile on LinkedIn, but not the other aspects of it, like our network. Can you commit to downloading your LinkedIn map every month and making a plan to improve your professional relationships? Let me know in the comments. Also, check back on my progress on my new network goals at the end of March!