Four types of contacts you need to build a valuable LinkedIn network

A few days ago we told you about a new webinar we’re presenting to our blog readers on how to use LinkedIn as a professional networking tool. Space is limited and seats are going fast, but there’s still room to reserve your spot. The webinar will be this Wednesday, Nov. 16. See our previous post for all the details.

Our presenter is Robb Pardee, founder and President of Strategic Leadership Coaching and one of LinkedIn’s recommended experts. He contributed this post to us to give you a sneak peek into what he’ll be presenting in his webinar. Read on for a preview of what you’ll learn if you attend.

And don’t forget we’re also giving one webinar attendee a free, one-on-one LinkedIn profile coaching session with Robb. So be sure to sign up and attend!

Growing your network on LinkedIn is a little bit like going fishing. If the thought of putting a worm on a hook makes you squeamish, bear with me for a moment.
I have done two types of fishing in my life. The first type was fishing for bluegill with a line and some bait, with my boyhood friends in Ohio. The bait of choice for bluegill was actually American cheese smashed onto the hook.

The second type of fishing was on a freshman biology class field trip to the Ohio State University extension on Lake Erie. They were researching the effects of pollution on the fish population. We went out on one of their research boats and trawled for fish. Trawlers drag a large net behind the boat and scoop up anything in their path in the water.

That day we hauled up every kind of fish that made a home in the murky waters of Lake Erie. The reason I say that networking on LinkedIn is like fishing is because members tend to take either a trawling approach or the line caught approach.

Let’s face it. The natural temptation is to grow as large a network as possible, and LinkedIn seems like a great way to keep score, right? Well maybe not. Have you ever wondered why LinkedIn caps people’s connection count at 500? They don’t want people to make it into a contest. LinkedIn’s official position is network quality over quantity, or they wouldn’t call your first degree connections your “trusted friends and colleagues.”

The trawling approach accepts every invitation to connect that appears in your inbox. The problem with the trawling strategy is that you end up getting lots of fish, or connections, that you might not really want. The cumulative effect is that you lower the value of your network by cluttering it with contacts that you don’t have a relationship with and that aren’t relevant to your career goals.

The line caught approach targets contacts that meet specific career goals or that you know well. In this approach you only accept invitations from people that you trust and who add value to your network. From my perspective, contacts add value in four primary ways for students:

1. Expertise. These contacts have knowledge that you can benefit from or would like to know. This might include your professors, your accountant, or even your career coach.

2. Experience. These are the contacts that have been where you would like to go from a professional perspective. They have experience in your field and are willing to share their wisdom.

3. Relationships. These contacts add value in two ways. They could be people that you know very well and could ask for help. Or they are people that have strong networks of their own and would be willing to make introductions for you. Classmates and work colleagues often fit this category.

4. Position. These are contacts with actual hiring power or recommendation credibility. Like managers at a company you are targeting for a job or past supervisors that can write a strong recommendation.

A particular contact might meet one or more of these criteria, which only increases their value as a connection. Cultivating a quality network takes patience and discipline — just like the good fisherman with his line and his bait.

There’s a lot more where that came from! So register now for our webinar. We look forward to seeing you there.

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