LinkedIn Connections as a Career Management Tool

Unless you’re a LION (LinkedIn Open Networker) whose goal is to collect many thousands of connections in your network, you probably don’t spend a huge amount of time trying to increase your network. That’s either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on whom you ask. As a disclaimer, I should mention that I’m a conservative LinkedIn member. I currently have somewhere between 300 and 400 connections in my network–I don’t keep constant tabs on the number, so that’s all I can say without looking it up–and it has taken me a few years to reach that point.

Questionable LinkedIn Advice on Adding Connections

I’ve been troubled at the switch LinkedIn has made from advising you to add only people you know personally or have a strong link to (such as a 2nd-level connection through someone you know well, who has requested an introduction from that 1st-level connection). Now they say, “Why might connecting with _______ be a good idea? __________’s connections could be useful to you.” My concern about this is reflected in an article I just read on ERE.net, “How having as Many LinkedIn Connections as Possible Will Increase Your Revenues by 42%,” by Carol Schultz.

Schultz comments that she appreciates the value of creating future opportunities; however, “I just believe that connecting with total strangers is not the best strategy for creating those future opportunities.” She also says that “although I connect with people I know, others don’t….So what good do they do to have them in your network?” Good point! I’m definitely not comfortable recommending someone I don’t know, so if you are asked to do that by someone, how comfortable are you going to be with responding to that request? Conversely, if you have a request to make, is it going to feel awkward, be unproductive, etc., to do that to someone you have no real connection with?

Career Management LinkedIn Strategy

As Schultz also indicates in her article, you need to have a genuine LinkedIn strategy, so you’re not “just slinging spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks”! You need to determine the following, for starters:

  • Why you’re on (or considering joining) LinkedIn
  • What you hope or expect to gain from being there–similar to the item above
  • Whether you have–or can create–a profile that’s professionally sound and communicates strong value
  • If sheer numbers are your focus, maybe Facebook is a better place for you to be

LinkedIn can be and has been a powerful career management tool; however, it’s not magic. You must do a lot more than wave a wand in the air, mumble incantations or amass thousands of LinkedIn connections to obtain useful results from it. Career management really doesn’t offer much, if anything, in the way of easy shortcuts; an effective LinkedIn network isn’t one of them.

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