By Will Kintish
We start out in life knowing no-one. Shortly most of us get to know members of our family, then we go to primary and high school then for some it’s off to college and university. Along the way we join clubs, teams and associations. We may attend our chosen place of worship which for some could be the pub or the gym! Then we go to work, sometimes in parallel with our education until we end up in our chosen careers. When I started work all those decades ago the career you chose was meant to be for life, but this doesn’t seem to be the norm nowadays. In a recent keynote speech Reid Hoffman co-founder of Linkedin said,“Part of the thesis that LinkedIn was founded on is that every individual is now becoming a small business. What do I mean by that? A typical job lasts two to four years, so that there is a sequence of jobs.”
So you move from your first job to the next and so on until we finally retire.
The common thread
So where is the common thread with your journey through life? Of course it’s people. People we meet along the way some we stay in touch with but most simply pass through a period of our lives then disappear. Some of them we don’t like and probably don’t want to reconnect with, some we like and some we like and trust and wish we’d stayed in touch.
Your little black book
As the years move on our personal diaries with friends’ names in, our college address book, and our databases get lost thrown away, details deleted. “I wonder what happened to ‘Haggie’ Harris from school or Gemma who I shared a room with at university” we may contemplate in a quieter moment. Linkedin can reconnect so many of these past associations and rekindle previous relationships, but unlike Facebook, in a professional and business scenario. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with Facebook but I see it applies primarily to the social rather than the business scene. On Facebook we all have friends, on Linkedin we are all professional connections.
Networking and using LinkedIn
We have been networking throughout life’s journey – it is simply the process of building relationships. Having that ‘light bulb moment’ late 2008 I realised I could now collect together all those people I have met through my life to date; well the ones who have signed up for Linkedin, anyway! And as I write 40m + connections are now in the system; not all my personal connections, I might add!
The two networks to focus on are the ones we have built over our lifetime and their networks. How many times do we ask or consider asking our existing clients to recommend us to others having done a great job for them? However happy they are, as soon as we leave their presence they get on with what they’re doing and forget us. But when we’re able to look into their little black book and see some of their contacts we can focus on people who we’d like an introduction to. When people in your network like and trust you they generally will be more than happy to introduce you to their contacts.
What to do with your online network
We go to business events for a myriad of reasons- the key ones being
- To meet new people
- To reinforce existing relationships
- To raise our profile
- To gain new knowledge and information
- To find new employees or find a new position
This is exactly what LinkedIn is there for too.
Investment of your time
When I mention LinkedIn and other similar online social media tools I often get the response, “Oh I haven’t got time for all that; I’m far too busy.” The attraction of Linkedin is when you understand it and use it effectively it really is a pro-active, time saving, profile raising, business development tool. When people say they haven’t got the time I reply ‘You mean you haven’t got the time to go to business events or do any networking?’ When you use Linkedin to best effect it really is the best use of your time. No travel time or hassle, no carbon emissions just pure premium time carrying out proactive business development. Like every aspect of our lives the mantra ‘What you put into it you get out’ equally applies to using Linkedin.
The key principles of networking
1. ‘What’s in it for you?’ People who are good at building relationships, i.e. networking tend to have a generous spirit and a giving nature. They share their knowledge and their connections and are likely to be open and receptive to requests for assistance. When you transfer those characteristics to Linkedin you will find it can become your best networking partner. Linkedin has a numerous settings for you to decide what you want others to see and know about you. People who set their setting to ensure I can’t see their network of connections aren’t, by and large people I want to deal with. All my settings are ‘open’ and I know it raises my profile within the global community of LinkedIn. I am conscious there are people who abhor Facebook, Twitter and other online networking tools. And that’s fine but all I can say is don’t waste your time with LinkedIn- it’s not for you. To emphasise these principles ensure every time you ask your contact for an introduction, keep reminding them to check your network to see if there is anyone in it they’d like an introduction to.
2. Patience and persistence When you start to build relationships it takes time; it’s the same when you start using LinkedIn. Unless you’re very lucky it’s going to be some time before you get value from it but stick with it and I feel sure you will get a good return on your investment.
The author of this article is Will Kintish, leading UK authority on effective and confident networking both offline and online. If you’d like Will to speak at your conference or training workshops, call him on 0161 773 3727. Visit www.kintish.co.uk and www.linkedintraining.co.uk for further free and valuable information on all aspects of networking.