Sunday, March 23, 2008

Purpose and Strategy

I've already posted in the past about how useful sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are. Facebook has lost a little bit of credibility for me, as I find so many of the groups silly and I'm tired of throwing sheep and being poked by Indian and Russian men I don't know.

LinkedIn is another story. This summer, there is a real possibility I might have to switch jobs. In the last month, I've spent time going through my contacts' contacts and seeing who I might know, who I've never met but have emailed, or who I vaguely met once or twice but might be useful professionally. I've sent out invitations to be linked to these people and happily, nine out of ten of them will link to me. I've doubled the amount of contacts in my network this month alone.

I find that there are generally three categories of people on LinkedIn. There are those that barely use the site and have less than 50 contacts, all of whom they probably know very well. Then there are the users like me, who have beetween, say 50 and 150 contacts. Obviously they don't personally know all of them that well, but they are riding the Web 2.0 wave and networking with purpose. Then there are the uber-users, the 151 plus people. These are people that are usually very well connected in life, have to meet a lot people in the course of doing their jobs, and conscientiously spend time on LinkedIn every day, checking their contacts' new contacts, searching for people in their email address books, linking linking linking, but with purpose and strategy. I have around 6 people like this in my contact list. One of these people has over 400 contacts.

There's a fourth category of LinkedIn users that I think is a very small one. There are those people that just want to see a large number next to their contact list, and will invite anyone and everyone to link to them, indiscriminately. These people are idiots. I have one contact like that. I used to work with him. He has low self-esteem and lots of free time.

So what good is it to link to people? How am I using LinkedIn in a way that is benefitting me professionally?

Well, I've gotten in touch with an old mentor of mine from my Wall Street days. That was a great contact to re-make. We've been emailing each other and he's been keeping me abreast of the job situation down there, which is always a good fallback should I need it. I've kept in touch with quite a few people from the city in which I used to live when I was married, and have actually landed a freelance assignment from that. I found an old college friend who is not employed in the same field as I am, BUT, one of HER contacts was, and emailed me to ask me about my experience, and ask a job-related question. We have kept in touch, and she might know of an opening in NY that will materialize in the fall. A recruiter I know socially from my single days found me and asked me if I would be interested in taking a certain job, or if I knew anyone for the position. The position was too junior for me, but I did know someone who ran an agency with a stable of people that might be just right for it, and he was in my contact list, so I "introduced" them to each other on LinkedIn, and indeed, she was able to place someone from the contact.

LinkedIn is one of the few social networking sites that rises above the noise and is very useful professionally, if you work it well enough.

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