Networking: It’s been proven that the people most successful in life are those with large networks. Monster.com has an entire section of career advice devoted to networking and how to do it successfully. So with all the buzz about networking these days, why is networking so important?
“Since success of any kind requires relationships, the first thing you must realize is that you can't get there alone,” says Keith Ferrazzi of Monster.com. Building a large and diverse personal network has become one of the keys to becoming successful in any given career; so it was only a matter of time before business networking mated with the social networking (i.e. Facebook) trend to create the giant known as LinkedIn.com.
Professional networking sites like LinkedIn claim to add an element of professionalism (and some legitimacy) to the social networking trend. They say it’s a great tool for professionals—and aspiring professionals—to connect and develop their careers. I'd wanted to try LinkedIn for a while anyways, so I decided to give it a shot for this article. The LinkedIn homepage proudly boasts:
"What can your LinkedIn network do for you?
- Get introduced to the people you need
When you need to reach a professional, LinkedIn will tell you who can introduce you to the person you need.
- Find professionals your friends can vouch for
Don’t just search the web for people. Search the people your friends know and can recommend.
- Keep up with friends and colleagues
LinkedIn makes it easy to hear news about their careers, projects and professional lives.
- Don’t miss professional opportunities
With LinkedIn, you hear about opportunities in your network, even if your friends don’t tell you about them.
- Build your relationships
When a connection asks you to make an introduction, you build that relationship.
I have also read about LinkedIn for a while on the Brazen Careerist, the popular life/career blog of writer Penelope Trunk. She has long been advocating LinkedIn on her blog as an extremely useful tool for anyone from experience professionals to college students to build their network and make useful connections to help them as they move up the corporate ladder.
LinkedIn organizes profiles by professional experiences, so each user can list jobs they currently hold, what industry they work in, professional accomplishments, past positions, and areas of specialty. You can’t write on someone’s “wall,” but if you’ve worked with them you can recommend their work and write a testimonial about what kind of work they do. Users can browse through their friends’ professional networks to see what kind of people you know, and get introduced to people through each others’ networks. users can also post jobs that they are hiring for, which means that you can use your LinkedIn network (or your friends’) to search for jobs as graduation nears.
Possibly the biggest drawback about LinkedIn, however, is its inability to be flexible. Users are forced to choose only one industry to list in their profile – for college students or recent graduates, many of us are multi-tasking, jacks-of-all-trades who want to hold a day job while pursuing our dreams on the side, and LinkedIn’s limitations of only one industry make it hard to communicate what field of work you’re in and what field of work you really want to be in simultaneously.
It also has an extra level of security over Facebook – in order to list someone as a “connection,” you must have both have been members of a group, worked at the same company, or gone to the same school (and must both have that group, school, or company listed on your profile) or you must know the person’s email address. This can be helpful to keep out random friend requests from creepy strangers, but can get annoying if you don’t have every one of your life experiences listed on your profile.
In the end, LinkedIn requires a lot less daily devotion than does Facebook. There’s no wall-writing, newsfeeds, photo-posting, applications, groups, or events. Unlike Facebook or MySpace, it’s more likely to help you find a job rather than damage your chances at a job. Many professionals today swear by it, claiming it’s a useful networking tool that it can’t hurt to have. Simply put, it’s about developing connections, building your personal network and moving up in your career and life. I say, it can’t hurt to sign up and create a profile and add your friends, co-workers, and bosses. A connection you’ve made at some point in your life could come in handy when you least expect it – and LinkedIn claims it can help you maintain those connections!