As a System Architect and Project Manager here in Denmark I rely heavily on my network and the contacts I have built over the last 15 years. Much of my work/oppertunities comes through these relationships and corresponding referrals.
This LinkedIn review covers what the company and product are all about, and why I believe it is a tremendously valuable tool.
LinkedIn is one of the new Social Computing companies. The most well-known company in this space is Friendster, which uses a six degrees of separation model to help people meet others for dating and to build new friendships. Friendster has enjoyed much success thus far, with extensive media coverage, top-tier funding and a user base that is approaching 3 Million users since April of 2002.
What Friendster does for dating and meeting new friends, LinkedIn does for professional networking, providing a powerful and efficient new way of using your network. The difference is that because it deals with the valuable resource of your professional connections, Linked In takes careful steps to ensure that your network remains protected and is not abused.
LinkedIn was founded by Reid Hoffman, formerly EVP at PayPal, and has a seasoned and talented team behind it. The company was recently funded by Sequoia Capital to the tune of $4.7 million.
LinkedIn is all about providing a more efficient mechanism for using your network, while maintaining the quality and reputation of your interactions. It is a great tool for:
– Looking for a job
– Finding new companies to partner with
– Connecting VCs and entrepreneurs
– Finding consultants or contractors
– Locating industry experts
LinkedIn is currently free to sign up and get going. If you begin to use the service a lot and make connections then you might consider a commecial agreement with the company, something i have done some time ago.
When you join LinkedIn or accept an invitation to join, you set up a profile for yourself. This includes what you are currently doing, previous positions, areas of expertise, companies you have worked for in the past and what you are interested in having people contact you about.
The next step is to add some of your own connections from your network. Inviting them to join is easy – you provide their email address and use LinkedIn’s standard invitation message or customize it to tell them a little more about why you are inviting them.
You can also have LinkedIn scan your contacts (if you use MS Outlook) to tell you who you already know that is in the system. This makes it easy to connect with them since they already understand the benefits of LinkedIn and are already signed up. LinkedIn gives you a list of people in your Outlook database that have LinkedIn accounts and you simply choose which ones you want to connect with and send them an email suggesting that you link up.
After you invite connections you can get endorsements. Endorsements are key – they help build your reputation and give further credibility to the connections and network you are identified with. In fact, according the folks at LinkedIn if you have endorsements you are far more likely to have people contact you with requests.
Once you have invited some contacts and set up a profile you can search for potential connections using keywords, physical distance from your location, number of connections the person has, number of degrees the person is away from you, and reputation/number of endorsers. LinkedIn provides search results back to you, showing you the people who meets your criteria, how many degrees away from you they are, and their profiles.
When you first start searching, you’ll find that LinkedIn has an impressive group of initial users. In many ways LinkedIn is like a Who’s Who of Silicon Valley venture capital and the startup world.
If you find someone you want to connect with, LinkedIn will tell you who you are connected to them through and how many degrees of separation exist. From there you can send an email to this person (or through a chain of people) asking them to forward a request to the person you wish to meet.
If the person doesn’t want to connect you to their acquaintance they can politely decline via email. If they are okay connecting you they can easily do so.
This is where LinkedIn’s philosophy and design become so important and differentiate it. Because you can’t directly see who is connected to each of your connections, the ability to abuse or circumvent the system is minimized. And in many ways it is self-policing and self-regulating – if someone contacts you too many times you can choose to either ignore their requests or end the connection.
As you interact with and spend additional time with LinkedIn your results change over time. The more connections you add, the greater your reach and the possibility for making meaningful connections. And as your connections invite other people, your network continues to grow.
I found that with LinkedIn I was able to pretty easily build up a core group of connections, and I had few LinkedIn problems. Using it is simple and non-obtrusive, and when I invite others they are usually pretty intrigued about joining the service. I’ve got about 40 connections right now am adding a few more each week, focusing on quality people that I know well.
If you know me, give LinkedIn a try and invite me to join your network!