“I don’t want to connect with just anyone” is a common statement from clients about invitations to connect on LinkedIn. Their thinking changes, however, when I explain why it’s in their interest to have a lot of first degree connections. Having a lot of first degree connections gives you an exponentially larger set of second degree connections. That matters for job seekers for two key reasons:
- Second degree connections often work at companies for which you want to work. You can get access to these people for informational interviews by asking a first degree connection for an introduction. Even if you don’t know the first degree connection very well, you can still ask for an introduction “to learn more about the company.” As long as you don’t ask for a job, you could get that introduction. What’s the worst that can happen? They say “no” and you figure out another way to get to the person (sending an InMail, for example).
- Recruiters (independent or at a company) will see their 1st and 2nd degree connections show up on the first few pages of any search they do for job candidates. The more first degree connections you have, the more likely you are to show up in those first few pages of a search. If a recruiter finds good candidates looking at five pages, why would they go to the tenth or eleventh page of a search where their 3rd degree and “everyone” connections show up? Give yourself a better chance to be found by increasing your first degree connections.
How can you increase your first degree connections without compromising your integrity (aka accepting every invitation that comes along whether you know the person at all or not)? There are 2 simple ways:
Allow LinkedIn to search your email contact list for people who are in there as well as a member of LinkedIn. Note of caution: search results come up with every box checked as the default, meaning if you just click “Add Connections” invitations will be sent to everyone on your email contact list. DO NOT DO THIS, as invites will be sent to anyone who was on a group email list from someone else. If you send invites like that, people will ignore the request and probably report you to LinkedIn for spamming, and then it will be hard to send invites to people you don’t know without having their email address. So UNCLICK “Select All” and go through the list one by one to check the boxes next to people you know will recognize your name.
Check out the “People You May Know” on your home page (not your Profile page), at the top of the right-hand column for the section. Click on the link “see more” and you will be presented with a two-column list of people you may know. Some of them will say that you have connections in common; click that link and you will see who you know in common. Others may be suggested because you went to the same school
Two more ways to grow your first degree network:
- LinkedIn now allows you to check for alumni from the colleges and universities you attended for degree or post-degree (continuing) education. Mouse over the “Network” tab on the black tool bar and click on “Find Alumni.” You’ll be taken to a page titled with one of your schools, and a list of alums underneath. You can change schools by clicking on the tab at the far right “Change School” tab and choosing one. You can change dates, too, to find people who graduated before or after you did.
- Join groups that you have an affinity for or affiliation with, such as an alumni group, company group, professional skills group, or industry group. You can connect with people in groups by sending them an invitation. Remember always to personalize an invitation, giving people a good reason you want to connect with them (e.g. you admire their work, or you are in similar fields).
Now you’re ready to tap into the motherlode of gold: second-degree connections. Once you have a robust group of first degree connections, you can start to look for jobs and companies you are interested in learning more about and working at. You’ll start to see that you have connections at many companies and people who can connect you to a particular job or recruiter. That’s when you begin to tap the motherlode of connections by asking for introductions to those people.