Qualify Your Professional Network

There was a recent discussion on LinkedIn regarding tight versus broad networks (LinkedIn Strategies – Tight vs Broad Network). Is it more effective in a  job search to build a network of close connections or instead, build a network with a broad reach, but weak connections?

This is an interesting discussion. Recently I have been trying to qualify my network. I have been building my network for a little over a year now. At first, I thought it should be a numbers game. How many people can I connect with? I immediately saw diminishing returns.

To put things in perspective, I currently have:

  • 277 contacts on LinkedIn.
  • 180 following/156 followers on Twitter.
  • 20 people actively following my blog daily and commenting
  • 150 non-family contacts in my contact database

Of all the above contacts I consider maybe 10 contacts can help me find a new position or are people that remain in touch with me. What does this mean? Have I failed in networking? Should I have a tighter network or a better network? These are questions I ask myself everyday.

Here is what I do know.

  • Maintaining a network takes time and effort on your part.
  • If you are seeing no responses from your network then you should not put the effort in networking with that person. I know this seems harsh. But lets face facts, if you email and call someone and they do not respond then it is clear they are not interested in maintaining a link with you.
  • Move on and find others that will return your emails and telephone calls. Even if they do not have a position, they are just checking in with you to maintain a link.
  • Maintain a network that brings value to you.

I have started to be more discriminating in whom I add to LinkedIn and follow on Twitter. I want to have contacts that I can help and that can help me both in the short and long-term. It is not a numbers game anymore for me. It is about quality relationships with people.

What do you think about maintaining a network? What are your thoughts on how to maintain a network?

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15 Tips to Using LinkedIn

  1. Keep your name simple. Do not add extraneous information.
  2. Your profile should be managed like a professional website. Formatting should be simple and clean and filled with tags that are search friendly.
  3. Add a photo and keep it professional. Headshots are the best. Photos add personality to your profile.
  4. Update the section “What you are going  now” at least a few times a week.
  5. Personalize your “public profile” to reflect your name. This allows greater search ability.
  6. Make sure the jobs you choose to list compliment each other.
  7. “Experience” is a great place to show your accomplishments. Be creative and aggressive. Take chances.
  8. List your certifications and licenses.
  9. Get Recommendations.
  10. Join groups that are relevant to you and invite those members to become your contacts.
  11. Add contacts that are of value. Do not build up hundreds of contacts. It reflects poorly on you.
  12. Use “Answers” sections to position yourself as an expert and to get exposure.
  13. Use Answers section to get free advice.
  14. Always be courteous.
  15. Give back. If someone you do not know contacts you for information provide information to that person. A helping hand will go a long way to building relationships.

A New York Chief Information Officer’s Search

Over the last several months I have started growing my “brand” to increase my exposure to the world. In my search for a new job, there are a few processes that one needs to have in place.

First, you have to network. It sounds hard and it could be depending on how you go about it. Never forget the people you worked with or went to school with. That guy in the mailroom might be working at a better position at another firm. Your college professor might be working as a consultant now and remembers what a good student you were. Always keep a rolodex of contacts and try to stay in touch with them periodically. Never burn your bridges unless you really have to and even then do not do it. And always enlist your friends and family. They are a good source to network for you.

Second, get on social networking sites like LinkedIn or Facebook. I have recently gotten on Facebook and I am still trying to find my way around as a tool. LinkedIn is a must for any professional. I have grown my network ten-fold without leaving my house. As a tool you can target individuals and groups that meet your interests. Your profile should always be up-to-date and you should have recommendations and connections to people.

Third, if you are an executive you should be writing. Whether in print or online you should do so. This gets your name out and grows your reputation and brand. It also keeps you thinking and your mind active. Starting a blog is free and easy to get started. In this day and age there is no reason not to be publishing something.

Fourth, join professional groups. I belong to TENG and as a group I think they are fabulous. Groups bring together people with similar backgrounds and interests. Do a search on Yahoo groups to find those relevant to you. Also Meetup.com is also another site that has groups that might be of interest. It is not necessary to join only professional groups but join those that are fun like golf or photography. Who knows, your golf club group might have people that can help you.

Fifth, subscription sites like The Ladders or Bluesteps should be approached cautiously. I have had some success with sites like this but overall I do not recommend them. Also free sites like Dice and Monster are a total waste for anyone with a lot of experience.

Sixth, have a handful of recruiters ready. Most senior level jobs, when available, are usually sent through a recruiting agency. So it is best to have a few that know you on your call list. Always remember, recruiters do not work for you but for their clients.

Last, it is important to give back. If you do land a position, remember that are many more out there without work. If you can help someone then you should. You will sleep better at night.