In response to last week’s networking tip on the topic of LinkedIn best practices to help you increase your invitation acceptance rate, a good friend of mine sent me a poignant reply. “Don’t get me started,” she said.
While she agreed with my recommendation to always personalize your LinkedIn invitations, she warned against building a massive network filled with people that you don’t know.
“I too hate the blanket invites from everyone I don’t know,” she emphatically stated in her email.
Her best advice to LinkedIn users is to create a way to have an inner circle. That is, a personal address book of close personal contacts separate from the whole, with updates and info shared. It would be great to have that, rather than being flooded with 500+ updates from people who you have no clue as to who they are.
Networking with LIONS
As a result of our discussion, she recommended that I connect with someone in her professional circle to get a different point of view. That led to the delightful opportunity to connect with Mary Valle, a talent consultant with Cigna. (see Mary’s photo to the right)
Mary is a motivated networker and heavy user of LinkedIn. In fact, she is a “LION” or LinkedIn Open Networker: a person who will connect with anyone, no questions asked. Typically LIONs will never refuse an invite.
Mary uses LinkedIn as one of many sources to help her develop Pipeline Talent for her organization. She takes a proactive approach to succession planning and keeps a scout’s eye out for strong talent in the marketplace.
- check out Mary Valle’s LinkedIn profile – http://www.linkedin.com/in/maryvalle
Be a talent scout for your company
My telephone interview with Mary generated other interesting insights and ideas that I felt were worth sharing with you, my readers.
I asked Mary to comment on the concern that when employed professionals become active on LinkedIn, their employer might think that they are looking for a new job. That could have negative ramifications.
Mary holds the opposite belief. She feels that companies should encourage their employees to be on LinkedIn. “Attitudes have changed,” she explains. “Everyone should be on LinkedIn,” proclaimed Mary. “The size of your network doesn’t matter, but your presence online will help your company attract the right talent. And this is vital to a corporation’s competitive edge.”
Mary shared with me a great story of one of her colleagues at Cigna who was pregnant. She took her business cards with her to the hospital when it was time to deliver her baby. Her company was looking for talent in the healthcare industry and she knew that she would run into good people. “Always have your business cards with you. Any place, any time is the right place and the right time for networking,” said Mary. Now, that’s what I call being a talent scout for the company!
Mary’s tips for LinkedIn
I asked Mary what she thought was “best practice” with regards to LinkedIn.
- Professional photo. Your photo should showcase your skill and talent, not just your natural good looks. “LinkedIn is not the same animal as other social media sites. Don’t post a photo that is too suggestive, as this will distract from your appearance of professional competence,” recommends Mary.
- Good summary of your employment history. While keywords are important, don’t use the same, tired old clichés that everyone else is using. Showcase your real and specific accomplishments.
- Be active on LinkedIn. Constantly be making new connections. Post articles and information of professional interest in your updates. Avoid reposting the same articles that everyone else is reposting. Look for something fresh and new. Write something yourself. Join groups and be active in those groups. Engage online and exchange ideas and resources with people in your professional field. This will make you more visible and more relevant.
- Personal messaging. Upon your initial connection, do not use the default message. Rather write a few sentences to let them know why you want to connect. After they accept your invitation, send them a personal message back in an effort to learn a little more about them. This is especially important if this person is a stranger to you.
- Be transparent. When you are facilitating connections on LinkedIn for people that you don’t personally know, be upfront about it, and still make the effort to connect people online. “Helping strangers on LinkedIn is part of how I pay it forward,” explains Mary.
- Keep up. Set aside time on your work calendar to reach out to people that you haven’t spoken to in a while. Mary uses a time blocking technique to reserve at least one hour per week on a Friday afternoon to conduct her LinkedIn outreach. Some people may prefer to do a little bit each day rather than a block of time one day per week.
- Third person. We agreed on most things, except one point – whether you should write your LinkedIn Summary from the first person or third person point of view. Because of her educational training as an English Major, Mary prefers to read the LinkedIn summaries from the more third personal writing style. The first person writing style makes her feel uncomfortable, at least on LinkedIn. She is also a fan of pronoun “we”
How do talent recruiters view unemployed people?
I asked her about her view on unemployed, in-transition people and whether recruiters look upon this group as less desirable than people who currently are employed. Mary said that the recruiters’ opinions and attitudes towards those in transition have changed quite a bit in the last five years. “There are far too many talented people who are out of work today,” said Mary. Because of all the downsizing and recessionary pressures on business, even high performance talent has been laid off and let go. “Being unemployed is not necessarily a reflection of performance anymore,” said Mary.
The value of maintaining a healthy network
When I asked Mary about Cigna, she told me that the company is passionate about wellness. They want their clients and employees to feel good about themselves, including their employment, their finances, their physical health, their relationships, their interactions. Mary told me that in her career, she had never landed a job from an online posting. “It was always through my network. I’ve always maintained a strong and healthy network.”
When Mary was downsized from Johnson & Johnson in December 2009, it was her network that came to her aid. Mary landed her current job at Cigna the very next month.
Your Networking Goal for the Week
Experiment more with LinkedIn this week. Scout around. Study what other people are doing with this professional networking tool. Stop messing around and upload a professional headshot of yourself. Engage in conversations about LinkedIn with people in your network, including your colleagues at work. Find out how they use it, what works and doesn’t work for them. Reach out to a LION and see out what kind of response you get. Be curious and be bold in your networking moves this week. What have you got to lose? What have you got to gain? Let’s find out…