You hear it from every direction. From LinkedIn, for starters, and from bloggers like Tim's Strategy. We are exhorted to limit our connections to only people we know, like, and trust. To strive for quality in our networking relationships on LinkedIn. To build our network strategically and nurture it carefully.
I can see that. I really can. I think, "Wouldn't it be great to be in contact with a couple of hundred professionals with whom I touch base now and then - so that we can benefit each other in meangingful ways?" Who am I kidding?? I barely have time to keep up with the daily demands of my work, much less nurture such a quality network!
I admire people who can develop an extensive high-quality network! But in advising my clients - technology executives in transition - do I advise them to work to build out such a high-touch network? Let me tell you what I tell them.
"If you want to leverage LinkedIn to get your next job and for long-term career advancement, connect with everybody who touches on your industry space as well as all the recruiters you can." Why?
Recruiters and hiring authorities are on LinkedIn often, if not constantly! Although many of the Fortune 100 firms are able to pay for unlimited access to the full network, many other companies are taking advantage of the free membership option. That means they are limited to searches within their own networks. Let me say that another way. If you have a relatively small network (one populated with people you know or know of), your chances of being included in the universe of profiles that that person searches in are small.
From where I sit, if you are counting on a passive presence on LI to get you a job and you haven't built out a large network, your chances of being found are slim.
The same holds true if you want to do a search for recruiters or hiring authorities and explore job opportunities. With a free membership, you are only able to search among your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree connections. That's a whole lot of possible job connections you will miss out on if you have a small network.
There are ways on LI to connect with LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers) in your industry (software, telecom, etc.) or area of functional specialty (i.e., IT, finance, sales & marketing etc.). LIONs usually have 500+ connections. By connecting with them, you will be expanding your network exponentially. Your chances of being included in a search go up. So does your ability to identify job possibilities within your own, now-much-wider network.
The job search benefit you gain from accepting all invites and proactively linking with LIONs in your space is very real. But that doesn't make the decision to explode your LI network a slam/dunk. That's because some people, including LI, frown on these practices. You may be concerned that people will think less of you if you don't have a carefully curated list of connections. Yes, there's a chance that will work against you - or even be a career disaster.
But I encourage my clients to take the risk of growing their networks beyond people known to them, because the upside long-term for their careers can be great. And if you are able to capture in your profile the keywords hiring authorities and recruiters are likely to search for, you have a much higher chance of being included in the resumes reviewed. And therefore a much higher chance of getting in the door. Don't forget to make your executive resumes agree in brand and content with your LinkedIn profile.
It strikes me as somewhat "precious" on the part of LI to expect people to disdain such an obvious opportunity. As a professional network, LI is all about work and career. Job search is an inevitableout to more recruiters, why is that so wrong? Makes sense to me. What do you think? I'd love to know! And...I accept all invites! So feel free to contact me on LI!