I make no secret of the fact I love LinkedIn. LinkedIn gives me so many opportunities to network and learn from other professionals that would be tough otherwise- sometimes it’s tough to make it out to events or conferences, and when I do, I don’t want the conversation to be limited to these events!
I am a bit unusual in the way I use LinkedIn, however, based on what my network tells me. It seems that most LinkedIn users use the platform to maintain a (fairly high-level) profile, and add mostly co-workers and former co-workers to their network. If they get a connection request from someone they don’t already know, they find that strange and are likely to ignore the request or block the person.
Somewhat different from that approach, I maintain a pretty extensive profile, with details of accomplishments and media from past positions. I include my volunteer work and achievements with community organizations, rather than just professional experience. I think of my LinkedIn profile as a way to capture all my skills and accomplishments, and keep me focused on my career goals. I actively give and seek recommendations and skill endorsements (though I don’t give out endorsements for skills that I haven’t seen evidence of).
The thing that I do that is most different from many of my colleagues is that I will add anyone and everyone to my network. People I met for 2 minutes at an event get an add, people who work in roles that I’d like to learn more about get an add, people in leadership for companies I’m interested in get an add, people with interesting headlines get an add. I send out hundreds of invites, usually at least a few a day. Plenty of those people won’t be comfortable adding me, which is fine, but some do, and I have found these people to be invaluable. They share interesting perspectives I might not have seen otherwise, I get to see the kinds of articles and content that interest them, I can cheer their career advances. There’s so much interesting stuff happening on LinkedIn!
Through building up my network in this way, I have been able to connect people to mentors, become aware of jobs that I might not have known about otherwise, and been able to closely track the pulse of the industries that most interest me.
If you’re a reluctant networker, I recommend giving this approach a try. It has been very useful in my career and could be in yours as well!