RLife: LinkedIn

David LaPlante and I contribute a monthly article centered around technology and the web to RLife, a lifestyle magazine distributed in the Truckee Meadows. This article appeared in their November issue:

Are You LinkedIn?

linkedin Connecting with people in Northern Nevada occurs in many different ways and in many different places. Whether it happens through a First Thursday event at the Nevada Museum of Art, a networking event sponsored by a local organization such as EDAWN, or on a chair lift at Mt. Rose Ski Resort, these connections can prove invaluable. A memorable meeting or a quick handshake can lead to lasting friendships, new business opportunities, and alliances that can benefit you as an individual, as well as the larger community.

The only limitation to traditional networking is that you can’t be everywhere at once. It would prove very difficult to make a lasting impression on someone, or build a new relationship, if you are not there, especially if that person lives outside of the Truckee Meadows. The best way to overcome this hurdle (yep, you guessed it) is to go online; but you have to know where to look.

LinkedIn is the place. It is a social networking site primarily for business professionals. It is helping millions of people connect and stay connected with colleagues and cohorts all over the world. What’s great about LinkedIn is that it’s really easy to join the party. What’s even better is that it’s free.

If you hop online and head over to www.linkedin.com the first thing you will be asked to do is create an account to join. Don’t fret about it. The reason why you are asked to join is because you can’t be a part of a community of users unless you are one yourself. Create an account, import the contacts you do have, and then watch what happens. Before you know it you are sending and receiving invitations to link up to people you met back in high school, knew at your first job, or always wanted to know but never had the chance.

Of course, we all know that success in business is the not-so-secret-sauce of a few fundamentals – skill, tenacity, luck, that BIG IDEA, and the ability to build a significant social network. LinkedIn helps primarily with the latter, but you really need some of the other components to get the most out of it. First and foremost, you have to create a substantial profile. Speak to your strengths and skills and demonstrate your accomplishments. Ask colleagues for recommendations, and offer to give them one as well. Remember, what you are establishing here is a representation of yourself and your personal brand. How do you want people to perceive you?

Many of LinkedIn’s features are very helpful for building your network, but you have to actively use them. On the homepage, LinkedIn continually updates you on who has looked at your profile. It also provides helpful suggestions of people you may know, and gives you the opportunity to contact them or get introduced by someone else. Furthermore, you can explore the connections of those you are linked to, and then decide whether or not you would like to get introduced to them. You can see how your social network can quickly grow and grow.

There are countless stories of people using LinkedIn to reconnect with old acquaintances, find new jobs, conduct valuable market research, and gather important information. But again, LinkedIn will only work as well as you want it to work. You wouldn’t expect to meet many people at an event if you sat in the corner and didn’t talk to anyone, right?

Even if you decide not to be very active at building your social network through LinkedIn, there is still another added benefit. It will quickly, easily, and cost-effectively give you an online presence. If someone searches your name using a popular search engine like Google or Yahoo, chances are they will find your LinkedIn profile, and in today’s business climate, extending and enhancing your personal brand online is very important. Don’t believe it? A quick search on LinkedIn for Northern Nevadans in the 89501 zip code shows that at least 500 or more professionals in our area who think so.

So, come online, create an account, and connect. Don’t be the missing link.

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