OK, so let’s just humor me and say that my prior posts have made you think seriously about expanding your professional network . You’ve created a LinkedIn account or finally logged into the one you created 5 years ago that you didn’t do anything with. Now what?
Well first things first. Before we talk about what you can do to import address books in order to quickly build up your network of contacts one of the more powerful ways for you to find people (and for people to find you) is for you to create a history of positions that have your title, dates worked, and most importantly Your employer. Even if you are not yet sure how you want to fill in the details of what you did for each of those rolls, it’s important to identify the role and show it in your history.
The reason why is that LinkedIn has search features and these are the beginnings of the keywords that people will use to search for you as well as the way you can find others. So look to the left side of the screen, find the profile section and then click on “edit profile”. Then use the “add position” button that is across from the header for Experience. Add in all the places/positions you have had even if there’s no detail yet as to what you have done. You can (and should) put detail in later but lets just start with identifying positions.
If you’re like me, some companies you have worked at have changed names or were purchased/etc. You can add a company name to one role and then a different name to another role at the same company. For example I worked at BBN which became BBN Planet which then became GTE Internetworking which then became Genuity (whew). So I used those company names at least once each for the jobs I progressed through during my time there. Why? Because if someone searched for former colleagues at BBN they would not find me if I left it off.
Once you have all your prior positions listed, along with all the company names, here’s where the fun starts for building your network. Go back to the LinkedIn home page. Along the left side you will see the menu and at the bottom is a green button labeled “Add Connections”. Click it. Go ahead, you know you want to. 🙂
This brings you to a screen that has four tabs along the top. Click on the one that says “Colleagues” and you will come to a screen that lists all those companies you put in when you were filling out your positions. You can then either use the “View All” feature to get a list of all past and present employees of that company, or “Find New”. If you’re just starting, use the “View All” and this will help you catch up quickly. Once you have looked through each of the companies and selected people you have worked with that you want to add to your network the system will send them an invite and you will see your network start to grow! Also, you will see another tab labeled “Classmates”. If you put your education experience in your profile, then this tab will list the colleges you have attended and you can find old classmates as well even if you did not work with them after graduation.
Remember the “Find New” button I mentioned above? This is how you dig the well a foot a week. Once you have settled into LinkedIn and your profile is up to date (more on what to add into that later), if you come back every week or two, select “Add Connections”, “Colleagues” and “Find New” it will find any new people who joined LinkedIn since you last looked from each of those companies. I’ve added more than 500 connections by just checking every few weeks over the last 6 years. That’s one of the ways to build a deep network of contacts without having to be intimidated by it all.
Next post I’ll cover address book imports which is another way to quickly discover contacts and add them to your network. And remember, you are only doing this so you can then use this network to be able to find and keep track of all your colleagues. So if all you’re doing is adding to your network but never reaching out to contact some of these folks, then you’re not really doing much to stay connected. Just remember, if you are looking for work, they can’t help you if you aren’t communicating to them.