Human Chain Paper

Your LinkedIn Network Should Be More than Just Connections

DEAN WAGGENSPACK, LEE HECHT HARRISON

As a career consultant, there are certain things that I find really troubling.

Like the fact that a majority of the people I work with do not have an active LinkedIn profile. Or, if they do, it’s not being fully utilized.

When I ask them what they know about LinkedIn and other business-oriented social media, many of them just shrug. The few that have ventured online have very limited footprints, offering people profiles with only their name, a brief job description and a list of past jobs.

It’s at this point that I am forced to remind them that more than 70 percent of employers look at LinkedIn profiles when they are searching for talent or vetting candidates for jobs. Some studies have put that number as high as 90 percent in some industries. And the trend is growing. Just a year earlier, several surveys showed only 60 percent of employers used social media in talent acquisition.

So, obviously, it’s really important that you show well online. There’s a lot of advice about what to do to make a good online impression: use a professional photo for your profile rather than a selfie; don’t use inappropriate language or re-purpose questionable content; be clear and concise in describing what it is you do and how you do it.

However, one thing I think most people overlook is that potential employers are not just looking at your profile and credentials; hiring managers are also keenly interested in what you are doing online.

In particular, employers will look at the quantity and quality of your network of connections and how you interact with them. This may seem to be a rather superficial measuring stick, but in reality, the number of people you are connected with and how active you are in keeping in touch with them says a lot about what kind of employee you would make.

Networking is a fundamental business skill. Depending on the position, it may be a critical competency. Social media, by its very nature, showcases not only the number of people you are linked to, but also how much effort you put into those relationships.

I recently met someone who proudly stated that you need “at least 500” connections on LinkedIn to be considered credible. So, he spent all his time racking up connections until he reached 500. Unfortunately, he didn’t really care with whom he was connecting.

This fellow had made connections for the sake of connections. Many of those “connections” were just another “notch” on his way to a target number. But if these connections are not people he really intended to engage, help, or to seek advice from, he was simply going through the motions. While he eventually got to 500, anyone who looked at his LinkedIn profile would instantly recognize that while he had “connections,” he did not have a “network”.

The beauty of business-oriented social media is that it allows people with similar jobs, skills or interests to connect, share and learn from each other. If you’re only using it to paint an unrealistic picture of yourself, you’ll be found out. And it will actually hurt your chances at getting a job.

Inflating your network without putting in the hard work to develop relationships with people may turn out to be the modern equivalent of exaggerating on your resumé.

You need to be your sincere self on social media. When you make connections, follow up and ask questions, share content (blogs, articles and presentations), engage in conversation. Don’t just repost or like something; participate in the discussion. You might even learn something—or have something to share with others at your next face-to-face meeting.

These are the kinds of activities that will show people you are a thinker and not just a collector of connections. And if there is one thing that employers are looking for right now, it’s a true thinker.