Over the last year or so, one of the skills I’ve grown the most has been my networking skills. And I don’t mean networking as in setting up a kicking high-speed gaming rig. I mean people-networking. I hit the magical 500+ mark on LinkedIn at the beginning of the year. Why is it magical? No idea. But it is. As of this writing I’m at 943 connections.
Sure, they aren’t “real life” friends, or anything. But that’s not what I’m going for. I’m looking to improve my career, and to do that I need to have access to people who might be able to help. And in return I could help them at some point in the future.
At first it’s hard, because people don’t really want to waste their time connecting with a nobody, or with one of those “test drive” LinkedIn members with only 4 connections. You can’t even count on those people to log in or answer email. But connections have their own special inertia, and it’s interesting to watch. When I started it was hard to connect to people in my field that I didn’t know. But once you build up a good head of steam, people look at you and figure, “Well, he has x number of connections already, we share common interests, and he already knows 2 people in my network, so I’ll connect with him.”
That’s when it starts to get interesting.
Social media is a funny thing. People I know in real life, who live within 20 miles of me, who I go to church with, see at the store, and interact with in the old ways, they haven’t been all that helpful to me from a career perspective. Few of them will even bother to buy my books (and those of you who have, I am forever grateful!), much less help me with career advice. Sometimes they will, if its a niche or hobby, like comedy or comics. But when it comes to helping me find a way to keep a roof over my family’s head, well, not so much.
But those 943 people who I’ve never met in person? Amazingly helpful. They’ve helped me with my resume, with my networking, with introductions, and with getting interviews. They’ve been great. With their help I’ve managed to get interviews with Amazon, Intuit, NBCUniversal, and several other smaller companies. Not all of those interviews are going to be good fits, but just getting them has been an accomplishment.
I’ve started to wonder if I should try to find a way to make a living out of networking itself, but I haven’t quite figured it out. But if you’re reading this, even if I don’t know you, I have some advice for you. Use LinkedIn. Get more than that small handful of test connections. Create your network. As a Disney recruiter told me recently, LinkedIn is the number one tool used by recruiters these days. It will be worth it, I promise. And if you need help getting started, connect with me and let me know I suggested it, and I’ll accept your connection. And right there you’ve started the ball rolling. And if you don’t abuse the relationship, it will be good for both of us one day.
And I’ll be at 944.