You’ve set up a LinkedIn profile. What’s next? You add connections that’s culled from your address book and you hope that these people with whom you have a connection will be valuable in your job search or career advancement.
LinkedIn is, in a way, something like an alumni network. When I was at the University of Pennsylvania as a grad student, many of the undergraduates formed lasting friendships, met alumni at mixers, and generally “stayed in touch.” When you go to an ivy league school (or a top-tier university) part of the reason you go are the connections you make. Those connections will also be a good resource for job searches and career advancement. How many times have you had someone in your company asks “Hey, do you know anyone who can do X? We’re looking to hire someone who’s good at X and I’m just checking.” They call that the invisible job market, because those jobs get filled without a job notice ever going out — unless they are required by law to do so. Even if a job notice goes out, the top choice may have been picked weeks ago through an internal contact. The old adage of “Who you know” is a truism that is largely true because that’s the way much of the working world operates.
Getting back to your LinkedIn profile and connection list, you should know that many people who want to connect with your on LinkedIn are not worth connecting with. Why? Maybe they don’t work in the industry you’re interested in. Maybe they are former co-workers who can’t help you find a new job. Maybe they are the kind of people who just like have 500+ connections so they can boast that they have 500+ connections. These are but a few reasons why you shouldn’t connect with some people.
An effective LinkedIn contact list is one where your connections can help you, and you can help them. If you’re looking for a job, then you may think that you have little to offer anyone you reach out to for help from someone. Think again. Look at your skills, your connections and ask yourself: “If X helps me, what’s he best way I can help him/her with something they are looking for?” It doesn’t have to be a job, but it could be access to a decision maker. For example, when I was working as a public affairs director for a radio station, and looking to change careers, I couldn’t offer a connection a job, but I could (and did, at times) offer them free air time to announce a non-profit event they were involved with (the station ran public service announcements every week, and I was in charge of scheduling them).
Should you make connections with people at your old place of employment? Yes! On Facebook. Think of LinkedIn as your business connections. If you had a business relationship go sour, why would you keep them as a connection? When I got laid off my from my marketing and promotions jobs almost two years ago, I got a LinkedIn request from my old boss (who laid me off twice). Why would I want to connect with him? Did I want to work for that company again? No. I used to be a teacher and some of my former students asked to be a connection. How could I help them? Mostly, I would speak to their work as students. But as workers? I have no idea. Now, I did add some of my former students, but others I had to ignore. It sounds brutal, but really it’s about understanding that LinkedIn is not Facebook or Twitter. It’s a unique social platform that’s solely related to your career.
As you go through your connection list, keep Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done for Me Lately?” in your mind as you look at each person you’re professionally connected to. If the answer is nothing, then don’t feel bad about deleting them as a contact. Also, if you’ve reached out to your contacts on LinkedIn and they haven’t responded, then it’s clear that these people add nothing to your contact list. Dump ’em. The idea is to trim your list to people those who can truly help you and vice versa. It’s quality of your contacts not the quantity of them when it comes to LinkedIn that matters.