By Tracy Evans
Like it or not networking is a part of business. It’s a skill some have and some don’t. Before I had my daughter schmoozing was easy but now that I’m a tired mother of a toddler I’ve grown lazy and just don’t feel like kissing up to people. Thanks to LinkedIn I don’t have to anymore, at least not in person. I can network in the privacy of my home office no matter what time of day or what I look like. I’ve landed several major business contacts in my ratty old pajamas. Whoever thought of this clever networking site deserves a big bank account and an even bigger box of chocolates. LinkedIn is for business types who want to keep in touch with those they know, catch-up with others they’ve lost touch with, seek out new contacts, and more. Best of all, it’s simple, free and there for you 24/7.
Here’s how it works. It all starts with an invite to join the worldwide networking party. And what a party it is: 20 million users in 150 industries and counting. I got my first e-mail invite two years ago but ignored it. I thought, “It’s probably a fad”. Well, after several months, an unexpected pregnancy and a case of mommy-to-be paranoia, “Oh, my gosh, I’m never going to work again,” I happily joined LinkedIn.
I created my profile (bio, resume) and then waited for invites to arrive in my e-mail box. I got a few but quickly realized that I needed to make some effort and network myself. Armed with the e-mail addresses of past and present business contacts I sent out invites. Then I took a chance and extended invites to people I wanted to know, but didn’t. Because LinkedIn lets you see your contacts list of connections (unless they’ve chosen not to) you can meet new people that way. Each time someone accepted an invite I got a little thrill as if I just nabbed a great pair of shoes off the clearance rack. In just a few months I racked up one hundred business contacts. Talk about a shopper’s high!
Don’t worry, if you’re web leery, a loner or just plain lazy LinkedIn can help. If you want to meet someone new just ask a mutual contact to introduce you to that person. New business acquaintances can seek you out as well as long as the two of you know someone in common. You can accept or decline introductions. And get this, the site also drops names right in your lap. Check out “People You May Know” or “Just Joined LinkedIn” to find former co-workers, people who have similar interests or alumni from your alma mater. The names may or may not be familiar to you. Now some users invite everyone on the planet to join their contact list. I think it’s best to stick to who you know or who you want to know.