Today is my birthday. I had another topic in mind but the occasion has forced my hand and today I want to talk a little bit about networking. A little over a month ago I wrote this post, Are you prepared for a career disaster?. It dealt with the situation of being laid off and your level of preparedness. Now, a big portion of that is networking. Who you know is often just as valuable as what you know or how well you interview. So what does career disasters and my birthday have in common? LinkedIn. In an attempt to have a robust profile I have filled out every available line. I have a picture, a link to this blog, every job I have had in my professional career, my degree and yes, my birthday. Starting last night around 7pm I started receiving emails from LinkedIn, notifying me that people were sending me messages.
Now this is entirely out of the ordinary, I am a recruiter after all. However, the frequency at which I am receiving these emails and the well wishes make it obvious, it is in fact well wishes for my birthday. Another thing is very obvious to me as well, I am going to receive a lot of these. Being a recruiter as well as a blogger, social media is very important to me. As such, I have built a decently large network. I have just under 9,000 first degree connections on LinkedIn and another 4,200 hundred followers on twitter. While I don’t expect too much in terms of birthday wishes from twitter, my expectation is a steady stream of messages filling my inbox all day through LinkedIn.
Now, I happen to love LinkedIn. It’s a great way to connect, learn about new topics and share information. One of the many great things LinkedIn does is it literally holds your hand through a variety of human interactions. What I mean by that is look at the top right portion of your screen on the LinkedIn homepage. There are 15 reminders up there every single day. They remind you when it is someone’s birthday or when they have an anniversary at an employer or when they switch jobs.
I once listened to a speaker talk about relationship building. In this talk, the speaker said that every morning he would open the paper and look in a section that chronicled local people’s promotions, new jobs and career moves. He would look for the people he knew and he would write each of them a hand written letter of congratulations regarding the significant career event. Three things came to mind when as I listened to this speech. The first was, wow, what a kind gesture that also happens to seem like a pretty smart idea. The second was, man, that seems like a ton of work. The third was, what is a newspaper? Just kidding, but seriously, in a vacuum, what a wonderful concept.
Now the downside to that plan is that it would be a ton of work. Enter LinkedIn. Because LinkedIn gives you reminders every single day about the happening s in your network and provides you several links that enable various forms of action, almost all of the work has been taken out of it. So if you look at this section in the top right hand corner it shows you a few things. It tells you the person and what has happened with them. It also gives you three options, like, message or skip. Now, technically “liking” there update is better than doing nothing, “skip”. But it isn’t much better. Almost everyone who happens to be on LinkedIn on that given day will hit like.
But what if you did more than that? What if every time you noticed someone received a promotion or a new job or the earth had a rotated around the sun another time, all the while they were employed with their current company, you messaged them? What if you wrote them a quick but personalized message, letting them know you are aware of the events in their life and wish them well? If you click “message”, LinkedIn will provide with a generic message like “congrats” or “happy birthday”, whatever they deem appropriate for the situation. And to be clear, nothing is wrong with that. In fact, it is still a pretty nice gesture. But how much effort would it take for you to write them a small note saying you are happy to see the progress in their career and perhaps recalling something you remember about them?
The fact of the matter is it will take very little work and you will make an impact. Messages like this might lead to conversations and those conversations could lead to meeting up with lunch with an old colleague. LinkedIn isn’t just a place where you can post pictures and opinions that really are more appropriate for Facebook, it’s a catalyst for maintaining and building professional relationships.
So here is my call to action. For a month, log into LinkedIn every day. Once there send a message to every person that LinkedIn brings up in that top right corner. My guess is it will take you less than 5 minutes. Do this and see what happens. The fact of the matter is its employees who are referred to an open position get the job at a much higher percentage than those of us who go through the traditional application process. Today’s workforce can be very volatile. In the time I have spent in Talent Acquisition I have had more talks than I care to remember with people who unexpectedly found themselves out of a job. I have heard those people say a lot of the same things. I didn’t see this coming. What should I do now? I haven’t had to interview is so long. I need to update my resume. However, I have never had someone say to me, I wish I was less well networked.
So try it. Send those messages. Strike up a dialogue with a former colleague. Cultivate relationships. Even if you never find yourself in the position where you find yourself needing to find a new job, there are plenty of benefits to having solid relationships. If nothing else, it’s a nice thing to do and you could make someone’s day. If you liked this post, please “like” and share it with your social media! Thanks for reading and remember, there is never a bad time to hear about a good opportunity.