A Business Technology Place

My LinkedIn Story

I received an email from LinkedIn this week asking me to share my story about getting a new job. I notice they used variable attributes in the email for my name, title, and company name.

LinkedIn New Job

LinkedIn is now a primary tool in my professional career to facilitate communication and networking. I’ve used LinkedIn since the early days when it was simply a professional address book. Today, my LinkedIn profile:

  • Doubles as my resume.
  • Maintains a current list of my professional network. It helps to me know when connections are promoted and if they change jobs.
  • Creates a connection chain to specific companies.
  • Provides membership to affinity and interest groups.
  • Gives me a place to answer and contribute to community questions about business and technology topics.

I thought it would be nice to document how LinkedIn was a key factor in my recent job change. It provides a good record for my own history and provides a nice fit into the subject theme for The Merchant Stand blog. Here is a copy of how I responded to the LinkedIn email inquiry:

A recruiter from Curtis 1000 pulled my profile during a keyword search for a couple of open marketing positions. She reached out to me to see if I might be interested in the either of the two positions or if I knew someone that I could refer to her. I didn’t feel that either of the two positions was a good fit for my skill set or future interests. However, I did refer a former co-worker to her that I thought would be a great fit for the job. LinkedIn had opened a connection that would become important.

Two days later I noticed a job posting at Curtis 1000 for VP of Technology and Systems Solutions in the screen section labeled “Jobs you may be interested in”. The posting showed because I was already using the ‘follow company’ feature on LinkedIn for Curtis 1000. The job description and summary both matched my previous professional experience and contained areas that I wanted to grow towards. Since I already had an open connection with the recruiter I reached out to her expressing my interest.

Three months later, after several interviews and discussions, I accepted and started the new job. LinkedIn was the tool that created the initial professional connection and the tool that suggested a relevant job description based on my profile and interests. Thanks LinkedIn!

Why do you network with people?

I’ve been planning a networking function for present and past employees at my current place of work. Planning in this context, is really just trying to find a venue. That’s challenging because there is a wide geographic dispersion where everyone lives. The last event I planned was close to my house and I received a few comments from people, that presumably would have come, indicating it was too far to drive. So this time, I am looking for a venue in a different part of town.

While discussing with a colleague, he asked me “Why are you doing this?” And then as if by automatic queue, he asked if I was trying to get a job. That conversation stuck with me this week because my answer was ‘no’, but I felt like the question deserved more than a single word response. So the question is ‘why do you network with people?’ The online Merriam-Webster definition says networking is “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions ; specifically : the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business”.  Hmmmm.  Ok, so cultivating relationships for employment is part of the formal definition. I do acknowledge this aspect of networking but consider it to be so much more. I think the key thought and meaning in the definition centers around ‘cultivating relationships.’

The most well known online tool for networking has become LinkedIn. When this originally launched, it was a place for people to register contacts with each other and to post their resume online. It quickly brought to life your friends, friends-of- friends and so on for deeper links in your network. But over time, the site has become so much more. Now you can join groups of related people (organization, school, interests, etc.), participate in discussions about life and business, post and apply for jobs, share documents, and share information. Look at the growth in traffic over the past few years. Is this site and others like it used only for the purpose of finding a job? I suppose for some the answer is yes. If this is true, then they have missed the point of tool.

What about face-to-face events for networking? If people go to these events for the sole purpose to ask or look for a job then I bet they come away disappointed most of the time. That’s as likely to succeed as a sales cold-call. I imagine it also risks alienating some relationships. Jobs can and often do come out of your network of contacts, but not often by going to a public meeting and handing out business cards and asking.

So what’s my answer to the original question? Why do I do it? Consider these answers:

To Fellowship

Find out what is happening in the lives of those I call friends or who are part of my network. This helps me understand who that person really is. What molds and makes them. It gets past the shallow conversations I have within the work place. For example, at past events I’ve found out struggles with schooling, dreams for entrepreneurship, annual vacation spots, working with the elderly, etc. That’s cultivating relationships.

To Learn

Let others teach me. Learn from their wisdom. Undoubtedly, they have experiences and key learnings to share. I may be able to learn a specific technique to solve problems or simply some diversity of thought about how to approach problems. In a recent networking meeting I learned a little about video cataloging and retrieval for a large media company. But this could also be about other issues like relationships. Perhaps one of my friends shares a common life event such as raising teenagers or going back to school. That’s an opportunity to learn. That’s cultivating relationships.

To Share

This is my opportunity to share with others. Sharing could mean sharing life stories or subject matter expertise. Just as I can learn from my friend’s experiences and knowledge, they may be able to learn from me as well. In the past, I’ve shared about thoughts on public versus private school, blogging, home repair and the like.

In my mind, networking is the real Facebook of life. Maybe it really is a terminology thing, but I see other events like this with different names: girls night out, prayer breakfasts, party, etc. At the end of the day, no matter what you call it, its all about relationships. As Webster states it, ‘cultivation of productive relationships’. That’s more than looking for a job. At the core of it, that’s about purpose and being.

So I’ll ‘keep’ networking. Keep in this context is meant and to be read as both a continuation of activity and a possessive verb. I’ll keep networking to strengthen and build relationships. I’ll keep networking because its a valuable element of meaningful life.