How to Work Your LinkedIn Network

linkedin-logoPart One in a series.

LinkedIn remains the preferred social network of business professionals around the globe, with more than 400 million users worldwide, and more than 110 million users in the U.S. To get the most out of LinkedIn as a professional, you have to work it.

I remember when I received my first LinkedIn invitation from a longtime friend and colleague more than a decade ago. I was skeptical. I asked, “What is this?” “How does it work?” What I didn’t know or understand at the time when I joined LinkedIn was that it would become the power source for networking with other professionals. Once I got started, I set my goal to connect with 500+ professionals. It was easier than I thought. With focus, the goal became a reality.

The first way to work your LinkedIn network is to: Invest time in reviewing “Who’s Who” in your network by asking four important questions:

  1. What skills do your contacts possess? One of the greatest advantages of LinkedIn is that it allows you to examine the people you are connected to and the types of skills they possess. It helps you to understand if your network is well rounded (diverse skills represented) or lopsided (too many connections in one skill area only).
  2. How well do you know your contacts? It helps to know the people you are connected to. This may sound trite. It’s important to know your LinkedIn connections because they occupy a valuable spot within your network. Occasionally invitations will come from people who you don’t know. Qualify the connection if you need to by sending an email. It’s perfectly fine to vet a request from someone you don’t know. Look to see if you have any connections in common. That will help you to decide whether or not to connect with them.
  3. What’s new with your contacts?¬†Because LinkedIn messaging arrives in your email inbox, it’s easy to track when contacts have changed jobs, added new skills or made an announcement. Visit people’s profiles occasionally to see what’s new.
  4. How are you keeping in touch?¬†Every time you open your LinkedIn account, you will see a series of “congratulations” boxes appear, announcing contacts who are celebrating work anniversaries. You have the option to send a message. It’s a great way to keep in touch. When you review your LinkedIn contacts list, ask yourself how you can keep in touch outside of LinkedIn communication. How often do you see that person face-to-face? Are you sending them your articles or blog posts? Is it time to chat by phone or grab a cup of coffee?

What’s the point of being connected with fellow professionals if you are not truly connected?

Announced this week, LinkedIn now offers a LinkedIn Students app that is compatible with iOS and Android. The app helps new graduates find job matches based on their major, locate companies that usually hire from their college, and learn about career choices of recent graduates with similar degrees. If you have college students in your family, suggest the LinkedIn Students app to them. It could help their job search.

Here’s a quick task for you to complete in the next week: Take just 20 minutes this week to visit two LinkedIn profiles within your network. Continue doing this for the next four weeks. At the end of this brief exercise, ask yourself what you have learned about those contacts in your network. It may provide you with some fresh insights on how you are working your LinkedIn network.

Next week: Part Two.