I just wrapped up a call with an advisor located in Littleton Colorado; we had a wonderful conversation. I learned a bit about his business, his family, and he shared an amazing entrepreneurial story about his brother. (Learn more at: Salute American Vodka.)
How did the phone call come about? LinkedIn. Yes, we met via social media. Something that would not have happened 10 years ago is now a commonplace event in my life. I’ve met folks from Australia who’ve taught me about their retirement plan world and women from Boston who write fabulous prose. These relationships have happened because I choose to see LinkedIn as a starting place for connection rather than simply a new card added to my virtual Rolodex. Many organizations and individuals measure their online success by the amount of followers, connections, and likes they amass. Recently, folks have begun to realize that it isn’t the quantity of connection, but quality. I agree.
The term networking tends to elicit what I call the Ugh Response. It is likely a remnant from those Chamber of Commerce meetings where each attendee exchanged business cards, limp handshakes, and then was called by every insurance agent they met over the next few weeks.
All too often, this is the way folks use LinkedIn: By adding individuals to their network with no more than the canned request of “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” I liken this to tossing a business card at someone and running away.
Meeting so many people from so many regions in the United States and across the world is invigorating. Through them, I’m able to broaden my base of understanding in the retirement plan and marketing worlds. Every day, I learn. Therefore, when I receive requests to connect on LinkedIn, rather than simply accepting a request, I offer a thank you tidbit of valuable information in reply.
In my interactions, both online and off, I seek to provide similar value. In some cases, a new connection’s profile indicates they’re in the job market. I may offer up names of recruiters they should contact. In other situations, I may notice that they have a unique description of their company or solution. The essence is that these connections are human beings. I do my best to treasure the interaction and graciously offer my help or ideas.
Knowing that we’re judged by the company we keep, I also realize that I don’t have to attend every party to which I’m invited. It’s okay to decline a request if I don’t know the person or if I don’t see value in the connection. If I feel unsure, I can send a message (without accepting), asking why they feel connecting would be beneficial.
LinkedIn is so much more than a who’s who of the corporate world. When used in a mindful deliberate manner, with real conversations being the goal, it has been such a valuable resource for me. It has opened up the entire world to me in the most literal way.