I remember being at a friend's birthday party a few years ago. My wife and I surveyed the guests and, as is sometimes the case, we knew about half the people there. The rest were friends of our friend Chuck. As we mingled and chatted with people, we bumped into a former co-worker whom I hadn't seen in years. Frank was as surprised to see me as I was him, because he lives out of the area.
It turns out that Frank had known Chuck for many years.
Was it just a coincidence that we had a common friend and never knew? Probably not. They say that there are six degrees of separation between any two people on the planet, meaning there are six friends of friends to connect any person with another, anywhere in the world.
Take people in similar locations and socio-economic circumstances, with similar interests, and I believe that there are far fewer degrees of separation, because we all more or less travel in the same circles. How many times have you run into someone you know at a concert at which there are 15,000 people? Probably more often than not, right?
LinkedIn Connects Business People
I'm a huge fan of LinkedIn as a professional networking tool. It operates on the connectedness of your friends and colleagues. So if I'm connected to someone I know, that's a first-level connection. Their friends are my second-level connections, and so on.
Let's say that someone I know wants to meet one of my friends. "Hey Tom, would you mind introducing me to Anthony?" I'd be happy to make the introduction of course. Anthony would trust my other friend, and vice versa, because they're both friends of mine. That's how it works, right?
LinkedIn makes that electronic connection request easy. If you've set up your account (it's free), and are connected to some people, you'll automatically have second- and third-level connections.
Making LinkedIn Work For Business
If I want to meet someone at a certain company, I may see that I'm connected to that person through a friend, and can request an introduction with a click of the mouse. Hopefully my friend would be happy to pass that along to his or her friend, too.
Recently I was doing some research on Bay Area companies, and decided I wanted to get an introduction to someone at a company. I looked through LinkedIn, and discovered that I had one connection to the technical director through my friend Mark, who lives in Chicago.
I sent Mark a note, and said, "Hey, I see you're connected to this person, would you mind introducing me?" He said that he'd been working with the CEO, too, and would love to pitch me.
Within a couple weeks, I was sitting in the CEO's office having a business conversation, all because Mark introduced me to him. Had I called the company and asked for a meeting, I likely would have been refused. But because Mark is trusted, the introduction was easy.
Making LinkedIn Work For Job Seekers
The economy is making noises about starting to come back. If you've been laid off, or are still employed but thinking of switching jobs, LinkedIn is a fantastic online resume tool. Make sure your profile is complete with a professional headshot and all your job experiences. You can request former bosses, co-workers or clients to give you reviews, which become part of your resume.
Once you've completed your profile, at the bottom of the blue box with your basic information is a "PDF" button. Click that button and it creates an instant Adobe Acrobat® file of your online resume. It's a fantastic way to produce a resume for business or employment prospects right away, complete with testimonials from people with whom you've worked.
I spoke with someone just last week who mentioned she is looking for a job. She said she wanted office work, but when I looked at her LinkedIn profile, I saw she had lots of experience as a legal assistant. That made it easy for me to think of three companies she should approach for a job.
LinkedIn also has an online job listing system that allows you to search for employment opportunities all over the world. You never know if you're connected to someone who could help you get in the door.
LinkedIn is a free tool, or you can upgrade to their paid account to get some additional features. But in these days of online inter- and über-connectedness, having your LinkedIn profile complete, with all your professional and job experience listed, is crucial. Potential employers are going to be checking you out, as will potential business partners.
Besides, it's really hard to beat free.
So get your LinkedIn profile set up, whether you think you'll need it soon or some day. You never know who you might want to meet, and you may be surprised who can introduce you.
If you'd like to connect with me, my LinkedIn profile is www.linkedin.com/in/thomaspetty.