Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, chances are you’ve at least heard of the online networking platform LinkedIn. Perhaps you’ve already set up a profile showcasing your experience and even connected with your friends, family members and colleagues. What many people fail to recognize, however, is the powerful tool this platform can be for expanding one’s professional network and realizing ongoing and future success. If you’re not yet leveraging LinkedIn for this purpose or you’re simply on the fence about connecting with strangers, you’re missing out. Here’s why.
Career Opportunities – Just about every brand under the sun is using LinkedIn, and savvy recruiters are now using this as another tool for locating quality candidates. Think of it as electronic word-of-mouth. If you’re only connected to those who are already in your inner circle, you could be missing out on the chance to be found for your dream job.
Professional Resources – At some point in everyone’s career, certain challenges will inevitably crop up. LinkedIn can provide the ability to tap into resources that you wouldn’t normally have access to because it allows you to connect with experts in similar roles but different organizations. For instance, let’s say you’re tasked with developing a mobile app for your business. Another person in your LI network may have already successfully tackled such a task and could therefore provide invaluable advice and best-practices.
Stronger Referral Base – Think of LinkedIn from the perspective of referrals, whether for yourself and your own career, volunteer opportunities, or for garnering referrals from others. When you expand your network to include other professionals that you didn’t previously know, you automatically extend your reach for referrals.
If you’re still on the fence of whether to use LinkedIn to connect with others outside your existing network, try looking at it from a different angle. Imagine you’re at a physical networking event and a stranger approaches you, introduces herself, reaches out to shake your hand and hand you a business card. Would you simply turn your back and ignore them? Of course not! Sending and receiving connection requests on LinkedIn is basically the virtual equivalent to this scenario.
Now, let’s take a quick look at some best practices to ensure that those with whom you connect on LinkedIn provide you with the optimum value.
- View their profile. When you receive a connection request, take a few moments to visit the requestor’s profile. This can provide insight as to why they may have reached out to you. For instance, you may discover that you have shared connections, have worked for the same organization at some point or share similar work experience.
- Ask them. If you’re still not sure why someone is trying to connect with you, there’s nothing wrong with asking them. Chances are their answer will clear things up. If you don’t get a response, feel free to move on.
- Consider competitors. It may seem counterintuitive to accept an invite from someone who you could consider to be your competitor, but remember two important things. First, you’ll have access to their profile and other connections just as they’ll have access to yours. Additionally, you’ll show up in the “People similar to…” section when others view their profile, which could open the doors to more opportunities.
Finally, if you’re still not completely comfortable expanding your LinkedIn connections beyond those you already know, keep in mind that you can always disconnect from anyone you’d like after the fact. So, why not take a chance? The connections you make could just change your life and career path for the better!