You probably don’t even know you’re doing it wrong.
Think of it like this. You join a circle of people at a party. You make eye contact with one person, shake his hand, smile, hand him a business card, and then walk away.
No words. No introduction. Just a card.
Weird, right? Most likely you’re thinking you’d never do that.
Truth is you’re likely doing it every single day on LinkedIn, and it’s the worst possible way to network.
Most people who seek to connect with me on LinkedIn never send a message. I have more than 1,900 LinkedIn connections, and if I met 90 percent of those people in public, they would be strangers, because most of them send a request with no introduction. Ninety percent of the people in my network have given me no value. I have no connection to them, and they’ve had no conversation with me.
They smile at me, give me a business card (their LinkedIn profile), shake my hand, and walk away. Sometimes when I ask if we’ve met, they answer with “I want to expand my network and you seem like a good person to follow.”
While I appreciate the compliment, there’s no way I’ll be part of your network if you don’t get to know me or start a conversation. A social media connection does not translate into a “relationship.”
So what is your goal here?
Networking is essential to finding job opportunities, promotions or insider knowledge within a certain arena or industry, but LinkedIn might be the worst place to do it. If you’re looking for a job, a LinkedIn connection won’t necessarily translate to tons of opportunities, largely because there are few valuable connections.
Entrepreneur and business developer Sol Orwell, whose business philosophies I’ve adapted for my own endeavors, understands this dynamic and warns that quality is more important than quantity. “The real value is having a connection with these people,” Orwell writes. “An actual relationship. The people in your network have to find you of value. And without value, you’re just another person they know.”
My own coaching client, Jason, was transitioning into a totally new field. Initially, he networked the way everyone else did: by sending connection requests. I challenged him to build relationships with people; to have conversations with people in his industry, and provide value.
When the people in his industry realized he was seeking a job, they shared opportunities with him.
Please do yourself a favor and stop using LinkedIn this way. Instead, add value to the LinkedIn community.
Everyone loves a genuine compliment. Reach out to someone whose career you admire. Say something like, “I’m very impressed by your profile. I’ve been trying to get into veterinary compounding pharmacy for a few months now and I noticed you have experience in that field. I realize LinkedIn isn’t a networking event that allows us to talk, but if our paths ever cross, I’d love to talk with you about your experiences.”
Acknowledge that the people you’re connecting with have busy schedules. When you initiate conversations and request a response, include the phrase “If you have time,” or “If you aren’t busy.” It gives your connection an opportunity to reach out if he chooses, or a chance to say no if he doesn’t. At the very least, though, you’ve garnered a response, which creates a connection.
Interact with people.
Digital connections aren’t necessarily connections. Connect with people by talking to them. Meet with them. Build relationships. Ask questions. Give value by sharing yourself with others.
Once you’ve done those things, join the HappyPharmD family. Even if you aren’t a Happy PharmD, my goal is to help you get there; to discuss happiness and career satisfaction, and to help you find work you love, even if it’s outside of pharmacy. Build connections with the HappyPharmD community that will inspire you to find what you’re searching for. (You’ll also receive free gifts and be the first to know about upcoming projects and events.)
Connections are vital to career advancement. Knowing the right people and finding the right opportunities will increase the likelihood of getting where you want to go.
Focus on meaningful connections over random ones. Build quality relationships instead of pursuing quantity. In order to create a valuable network, you must first provide value to your network.
Alex is the Founder of The Happy PharmD. He loves anime, his family, and video games, but not in that order.