If you’re one of those people who signed on for LinkedIn, filled in the basic info about your work and education and now can’t figure out why nothing magical is happening, this is for you. Like much social media, you get as much as you give with LinkedIn. Unlike some social media, though, LinkedIn delivers some pretty incredible value in terms of business development or career building if you know what you’re doing. But you can’t be passive about it.
Don’t Just Sit There—Go Get Yourself Some Referrals
On LinkedIn, every single person is categorized in relationship to you, which is designated by a little blue number in an oval next to their name. They are “1st Connections,” “2nd Connections,” “Group Connections” or “3rd+ Everyone Else.” The 1st connections are the people with whom you are directly linked because you are acquainted with them and the two of you have agreed to connect on the site. The 2nd connections are people who are linked to your 1st connections. Group connections are people who belong to a group that you belong to and, well, you can figure out the rest.
So let’s say you are an employment lawyer wanting to meet the HR director of a company in your town—but you don’t want to make a cold call, right? It’s simple:
- Enter the name of the company as the search term in the box at the top right of your home page. Then click on that company when you see it in the drop-down menu.
- Click on the blue “Employees” tab to get a starter list of all employees, past and present, who are on LinkedIn.
- Click on “See More Employees” at the bottom of that short list.
- Enter “Human Resources” as the search term in the box at the top of the left-hand column.
- Figure out which person in the resulting list is the one you want to meet. If you’re lucky, that person has a blue “1st” in the oval next to his or her name, so you already know this person. Invite the guy to lunch!
- If it’s a “2nd” or “3rd” in the oval, that’s still okay. Click on the person’s name, then look at the box in the right-hand column that says “How you’re connected to X.” You’ll see a list in blue type of all the 1st-degree connections that you have in common with the HR director.
- Decide which of those people you know and like the best, and who thinks most highly of you! Then contact them by email or phone with a request that they introduce you to your target.
- If it turns out the HR director is a 3rd-degree connection for you, there will be a little more footwork required. In that same “How you’re connected” box, you’ll see the names of your 1st-degree connections who connect with one or more of the HR director’s 1st-degree connections. You’ll then need to browse your connections to see who they know who also knows the HR director. Then you ask for an introduction … and another, to get to the director.
“That is not a referral,” you may be thinking, “it’s merely an introduction.” Well, it most certainly is a referral if you’ve done your job well. Think about it. If a professional acquaintance called you and said she’d like to introduce you to her financial planner, wouldn’t you assume that she endorses that person? Yep. No on wants to be responsible for introducing a friend to someone sub-par, right?
Now don’t forget to return the favor.
Merrilyn Astin Tarlton (@astintarlton) is the author of the new Attorney at Work book “Getting Clients: For Lawyers Starting Out or Starting Over.” She has been helping lawyers and law firms think differently about the business of practicing law since 1984. She is a founding member of the Legal Marketing Association, an LMA Hall of Fame inductee, and a past President of the College of Law Practice Management. Merrilyn was a founding partner of Attorney at Work. Learn more about Merrilyn here and follow her on Twitter @astintarlton.