February 29, 2008

Linked into the haystack

Filed under: Success at Work

Relationships make the world go ’round, and it’s wonderful to make new friends and contacts. And it’s really great when you find that needle in a haystack — a new contact who changes your business or your life. Such an encounter might be a once-in-a-lifetime event. No one’s been able to figure out how to reliably trigger the unique circumstances that bring two people together, or even how to identify the special characteristics that combine to make a valuable new relationship.

Here are the last five messages people sent me when asking me to join their LinkedIn networks, in the hope that we might make magic, or even that we might just enjoy hanging out together:

  • I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
  • I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
  • I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
  • I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
  • I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

Contact-management software and social networks promise to help us develop tons of contacts so we can mine them for personal benefits. Like job boards, the technology that makes all this possible is the data base. And as soon as we pick up that tool — the data base –, we forget everything we know about human psychology and we turn up the volume. Volume, quantity, sheer numbers, the more the better — my network has more people in it than yours, whoo-wee!

In my 30 years working in the world of technology I’ve learned that as soon as a data base is thrown at a problem, the the original objective goes right out the window and the new objective is to build the size of the data set.

 I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

The data base on my computer that’s called my e-mail client sees that same data in new records again and again, day in, and day out. Like the LinkedIn data base, my e-mail data base doesn’t care; it processes all records with speed and aplomb.

This is a plea to everyone who sends me invitations to LinkedIn. Stop. The hype has turned LinkedIn into a haystack full of needles, each asking us to find them. I get so many invitations to join people’s networks that I don’t even open them unless I recognize the name. The subject line, “Invitation to connect on LinkedIn” is now in my e-mail rules, and it leads to the junk bin.

What astonishes me is people I know who have 500+ links in their networks. I won’t join those, either. What’s the point? Am I impressed with your legions of data base records? Why would I waste my time with an invitation to add value to your network when you don’t take the time to send me a personal note? If you have so many good friends, the only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that you are either a deity or someone with low standards.

I appreciate LinkedIn. It provides a pacifier to ambitious fools who are unwilling or afraid to communicate with me. LinkedIn makes it easy to channel those people into my junk-mail bin.

So, who do I accept links from? People I know and respect. People referred from those I know and respect, who have some characteristic that interests me or overlaps with my own. Most important, from people who have something to say to me that is interesting or potentially useful.

So, thank you, LinkedIn, for creating a place where cows may gather and wait. It makes it easier for others among us to open the door to people worth meeting.

25 Comments on “Linked into the haystack”
By Working Girl
February 29, 2008 at 9:23 pm

Thank you for pointing out that LinkedIn has no clothes. It’s been bugging me…..

By Charles
February 29, 2008 at 11:30 pm

I don’t think that I can add any value to the content of your blog post. You summed it up nicely. However, I would like to make a couple of presentation suggestions. It’s kind of hard to see the links with this blog theme. I think it would be a value add if you would make the links underlined. I would also suggest that you add titles to them like you see when you hover over the links in the Blogroll. Feel free to edit this comment as you wish or not post it at all.

By Nick Corcodilos
March 1, 2008 at 11:06 am

Charles,

Thanks for the presentation suggestions. I’m new to WordPress, so tips are welcome. I’ve changed the format of links to bold so they’re easier to see. How’s that? (Using “underline” clutters things up because the underline would apply to ALL links everywhere.) And I just figured out how to add titles to links, so I’ll start doing that where it makes sense.

Keep the suggestions coming, and if you’ve got WordPress advice, drop me an e-mail via the Contact link — I’m getting a kick out of learning how to use it.

By Dan Moore
March 3, 2008 at 8:50 pm

I agree about the quality of the relationship data on LinkedIn (it’s crap), but it’s hard not to use LinkedIn as a online rolodex–people tend to keep their own entries up to date, so if I need to get ahold of them, I can.

I’m reminded of an article I read about social networks (http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue11_12/boyd/) which talked about how it was almost always easier to ‘friend’ someone than to turn them down. On LinkedIn, that leads to degradation of data, but it’s hard to combat.

And have you ever tried to get LinkedIn to ‘unlink’ you from someone? I accidentally accepted a link invitation from someone I didn’t know a year or two ago and had to hunt long and hard to find a way to break the connection–perhaps it has improved since then.

By DB Cooper
March 4, 2008 at 8:57 am

I’ve never used LinkedIn to find a job but I do have some old contacts on there (my network is not that large). Occasionally I do get the generic msg from someone I knew and sure, what the heck, I add ‘em. And I’ve found old colleagues on LinkedIn and invited them as well.

Maybe it’s not so much a resource for finding employment as it is a kind of boring MySpace for old farts. Either way I kinda like it.

By CM
March 4, 2008 at 8:58 am

I second the opinion. I have recently decided that I will not accept an invitation unless I have actually met the person and have had some meaningful discussions. Otherwise, if I have not actually met the person, I must have had some meaningful and sustained interaction, such as working on a project or transaction.

Recently, the whole phenomenon appears to have deteriorated further as a result of rival web sites proliferating in various parts of the world. This has led to people already on my Linkedin network sending out invitations to join other, competing networks such as Spock and Pulse, not to mention Facebook. I think that, in the medium term, these spams will increase before people start getting reality checks.

There is something very sad about this development.

By Jason Alba
March 4, 2008 at 9:06 am

Nick, I met you in Savannah where you spoke to the NRWA group. We met in the hallway.

I used to not care about the canned messages, as most people who reached out to me developed a relationship outside of LinkedIn, and I knew who they were.

Plus, the canned message isn’t always apparent, so newbies might not see how to change it.

Since I developed a more public persona (through my books, articles, speeches, etc.) I started to get a lot more invitations. Even though I don’t know the person personally, they may feel they know me after listening to me for an hour and a half. I’m okay with connecting with them.

However, it is frustrating when they don’t change the message to say something like “You probably don’t remember me but we met at the xyz event where you spoke…” … just some way for me to know WHY they want to connect with me.

Nick, you mention the problem of building volume as the main objective of these types of networks. I agree, that’s a huge problem. Another huge problem, perhaps a symptom of that, is that people start to think about their relationships as it pertains to their online relationships. In other words, if we aren’t connected on LinkedIn, how could we ever be friends??? If we aren’t FIRST degree connections, I really need to fix that!

What if you WON’T connect with me? Can you still be in my circle??

People need to understand that there is this idea of a LinkedIn Network, which will ALWAYS be a subset of their total network. Really, how many peope in your complete network aren’t even online, at all?

The power of LinkedIn isn’t necessarily what I get to do and see in my first degree circle, it’s the second and third degrees. This can feed the volume idea, but I think the volume issue overclouds the purpose and power.

Regarding large networks, when I hit 500+ I felt dirty… even promiscous. But I work on each of those relationships, and have pruned out connections that just don’t make sense. I realize that I can’t go below 500, even if those with 500+ are tagged as being bad. The ones I don’t really care for are the ones who’s value prop is:

“connect with me because I have x,000 connections!”

In other words, it’s not so bad to be above 500. It is, imho, bad to brag about it and use that as a tool to say why you *should* connect with me.

Finally, LinkedIn has always said, even while it has been unpopular, that you should connect with people that you “know and trust.” There is wisdom in that, and it allows you to have a real tool, as opposed to another “stack of business cards” that you don’t know what to do with.

Jason Alba
CEO – JibberJobber.com
Author – I’m on LinkedIn — Now What??? (LinkedInHelp.com)

By Kathy Sweeney, NCRW, CPRW, CEIC, CCM
March 4, 2008 at 9:38 am

Nick,

This is a long post, but I hope the information provided will bring a different perspective on LinkedIn to your readers.

While I agree that the “generic” invitations are a bit annoying, I am a strong proponent of LinkedIn.

However, I do not believe in the mentality of “winning the prize for getting the most connections.” I believe in using it to link with quality connections – people who can truly help me in my business venture.

I first found out about LinkedIn from a “candidate sourcer” who works with one of the recruiters for whom I write candidate resumes.

She explained how she used it to find candidates and how good connections / recommendations can help people in their job search. I signed up immediately and now recommend it to all of my clients.

It can also help candidates be found through Google searches conducted by employers during the decision-making phase of a new hire. A strong LinkedIn profile can showcase a candidate’s brand and the recommendations shown on his / her profile can be the difference in receiving a job offer.

But, LinkedIn is not just used by candidates. It can also be used as a business development tool. One way I use it is to find recruiters for my clients.

Also, you can use the “answers” section to ask a question about darn near anything and people will provide you with a wealth of information.

For instance, I asked a question a few weeks ago in the “technology” section about finding a good spam blocking program. The answers I received were helpful and I actually implemented one of them. Remember to thank each person for his / her answer to your question.

You can also show your “expertise” in the answers section by responding to someone else’s question. This will provide great visibility for a candidate or business person. But, you have to be careful to not be “self-promotional,” as other people will blast you.

However, I think the biggest issue is that people do not know how to use LinkedIn properly.

There is a great book out there, written by Jason Alba, an expert on using LinkedIn effectively, entitled “I’m on LinkedIn, Now What?” The book is VERY comprehensive and I highly recommend it to get the most out of LinkedIn. Here is a link to it: (http://tinyurl.com/2y7wrz)

Here’s my list of the biggest problems I see people have with not using LinkedIn properly:

1. Not knowing “who” to link with

I know of one “smaller” company (about 200-500 employees) who all “link” to each other and hardly anyone else. Not quite the best use of LinkedIn, which is based upon “six degrees of separation.”

The solution is to link with people who can actually help you (whether job search or biz dev), know you, and have a good reputation in their industry. Remember the phrase, “birds of a feather flock together?” It is very pertinent for LinkedIn and a job search.

2. Not having a strong “bio”

I see a lot of LinkedIn profiles where people either put really strange things (one person wanted to link with me and he had a poem about death and sex in his “bio” section – I did not respond)or just a laundry list of “keywords.”

Having a strong bio is like having a great “brochure” about the “services” you can provide to your next employer. If candidates put their unique value proposition, with keywords included the “right way” in their bio, the likelihood of receiving messages from recruiters with great job opportunities increases tremendously!

3. Not using the full potential of “recommendations” area

Many people don’t understand how to use the recommendations area on LinkedIn. They might ask someone to recommend them, but there might not be a “personal” relationship between the two people. Thus, they might receive a recommendation like, “Bill is a great guy.” That is not helpful at all!

Only ask people for recommendations with whom you have a great working or business relationship. Ask them to provide a detailed recommendation based upon a project you both work on or a business deal where you provided excellent service. Then, return the favor!

Another way to get recommendations is to “give” a great recommendation first. Put thought into what you write about for the person. The more detailed, the better.

Once the other person sees the detail and time you put into his recommendation, the greater the chance of you receiving an equally impressive “touting” of your abilities.

Using LinkedIn properly can have benefits. My advice? Don’t use it to become “King of the Hill.” Remember that quality relationships, not quantity of contacts, count in the world of networking!

By Christopher Johnson
March 4, 2008 at 9:55 am

Nick,

Really good article. I never accept invitations from people I do not know. Also, when I do invite folk, I provide context (instead of sticking with the generic script). I provide how we know each other; projects we worked on; classes we attended; etc. furthermore, like you, I do not join those with 500+ links.

LinkedIn could be useful; the value lies in the proper use of the tool.

By Karen
March 4, 2008 at 12:15 pm

For me, a key point of your post is that you don’t have to accept every invitation that arrives in your mailbox. I don’t accept every pre-qualified credit card offer that comes in the mail either. My professional network and my solid credit score are valuable to me and hard earned, so I protect them from inbox intruders.

Linkedin is very useful for maintaining connections such as alumni or community groups.

By Jerry
March 4, 2008 at 12:29 pm

Just adding my name and business name to LinkedIn did improve my Google search ranking. I still do not understand why someone would want to make public all his or her contacts. I find it interesting the amount and detail of information people post on the web; education, dates, work history almost everything require for a loan. Are these the same people sign up for identity protection?

By Terry
March 4, 2008 at 1:30 pm

I agree that you should edit the invitation before sending. If I recently met this person, I will include that in the invitation, as well as a reason for why we should connect.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have met some people with large networks, and understand why they do. I have not met with everyone in my network, but I did look at their profile.

The key is why you are on LinkedIn. I know a recruiter who was connected with several people with large networks. He had a unique position to fill, and did a search on LinkedIn. Through his contacts, he found someone who had these qualifications, and that person recommended a friend to fill the position. He was able to use other’s networks to complete his search.

With a large network, you are in a better position to help those in your network find what they are looking for. You may not be able to help them with their immediate need, but if you have someone in your network can help, you can introduce them. Isn’t that part of networking?

By Bill Gaffney
March 4, 2008 at 4:38 pm

Nick m y friend, some interesting and thought provoking comments. First of all I am a big proponent of LinkedIn. I have a few rules, however:
1) I don’t link with people I don’t know.
2) The link has to be of potential value. I “love” the lady that does my hair but see little value in being linked with her.
3) I never link with a “power” networker (thousands of connections). Their networks and introduction has little value to me. I also have to believe that many of the people networked to them but low value in their introductions.

I don’t draw the line at 500. That is probably a little low.

I have written on LinkedIn and Face Book in a couple of my columns. I believe the people not using it are showing their lack of networking prowess. Many CEO’s use it. To me that says something.

Plaxo has a LinkedIn light. I have accepted invitations from those I know but am not actively using it. I have received a high number of people I don’t know on this one.

Finally you also need to be on Facebook. Many true networking and high end business professionals, especially high tech, I know
have started using it in the last few months.

Bill

By C Ewing
March 4, 2008 at 4:42 pm

When I first joined LinkedIn, I accepted every invitation that came my way. I was happy when I passed the “500+” mark and had supposed access to millions of people.

A problem came when I tried to use the network to meet new people. I would send an invitiation request to one of my contacts, asking them to introduce me to one of their contacts, and they would reject my invitation, saying “sorry, I don’t know you well enough to introduce you to (name).”

I thought to myself, if I can’t use you to meet new people, then why are WE connected? Since then I’ve cancelled hundreds of previous connections – my network stands at around 200, and I’ve imposed rules that I will only connect with people who are known to me personally, work in my geographic area, or work in my industry. It seems to work a lot better.

By Frank Bonura
March 4, 2008 at 8:27 pm

Nick,

Unfortunately, for many LinkedIn is a new “silver bullet” for those that do not invest the time to pursue relationships of substance. To accept “networking” invitations from individuals you have not taken the time to become acquainted with is RECKLESS. It takes years to establish an unquestionable reputation; it takes one inappropriate relationship to tear it all down.

As always, great article!

By Nicholas Meyler
March 4, 2008 at 10:21 pm

I personally like LinkedIn, and I recommend it highly, as a recruiter. I actually agree with many of the comments made above, but at the same time, I think that LinkedIn is probably the best of the networking tools that are available currently.

Some of the people in my network are major corporate stars. Others are not. It takes all kinds, as far as I am concerned, and I don’t think networking is an activity where snobbishness pays off in the long run. The point is simply that LinkedIn can provide avenues for networking that would otherwise be unavailable. To simply dismiss it ad hoc is a bit closed-minded, as far as I can see. I think that we sometimes have the tendency to “throw the baby out with the bath-water”, and not to use such networking methodologies could easily be just as reckless.

By Timothy Knox
March 19, 2008 at 1:03 am

I use LinkedIn for one thing only: to keep up with where my professional friends and former coworkers are working now. That’s it! For that, it works quite well.

By Kevin Kane
March 23, 2008 at 2:11 pm

This article prompted me to delete hundreds of connections I’d either solicited or accepted. Thank you.

By Dave Tjornehoj
April 9, 2008 at 9:04 am

I offer that the act of joining LinkedIn has a bit of a cathartic aspect. It replaces, at least momentarily, the constant griping and venting to the same bored coworkers about my sad, hopeless situation. It proves that I am prepared to really DO something…or at least announce my intention to do something…sometime…maybe.

While I am not currently looking, my department is struggling and I expect soon to use my LinkIn resource to research companies….only. Not for job leads or leads to leads to leads…just companies. Meeting people over coffee is the most natural, low pressure, informative way to learn WHERE you may want to work.

By Nick Corcodilos
April 9, 2008 at 9:54 am

Dave T: Now THAT is a good reason to use LinkedIn. If it gets you motivated to connect with other people, go for it! My suggestion: Don’t stop there. Face to face contact is best. Let this lead you to actually build new relationships, not just new contacts. It’s too easy to get lulled into thinking that because you have a sizeable LinkedIn network, life will take care of itself.

By SERORARTY
December 19, 2008 at 6:33 pm

Hello

As a fresh corcodilos.com user i just wanted to say hello to everyone else who uses this forum :D

By Suzan
January 22, 2009 at 1:56 pm

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By SamM
May 20, 2009 at 7:40 pm

My linkedin account is where my “traditional” resume is. If any employer wants to see my education and experience after talking to me or seeing my blasphemed resume (why would he?), I just post a link to my public linkedin profile. I don’t see any point in adding random contacts, except for finding out the names of current employees and managers at the place you want to work. That could be useful.

By dsl router
October 5, 2009 at 2:37 am

Not only does LinkedIn allow users to connect professionally and build relationships with people in a particular, but it also allows users to research companies with which they may be interested in working.

By Scarlet Pimpernel
November 20, 2009 at 2:13 pm

LinkedIn has empowered the JUNK mailers to prosper at our expense. And I don’t mean simple invitations…no, I’m talking about Emails that look like invitations to join a network in the first sentence….quickly followed by a Sales Pitch for Executive Dating and Body Massages in the third sentence. I am now seriously thinking of calling it just a massive waste of time and expanding the use of my SKYPE account.

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