A good part of my career’s antifragility resides, amongst other things, in the strength of my network. Mostly thanks to LinkedIn.
I’m not speaking as a LinkedIn expert. I’m speaking as someone who had no network a few years back, and who now has a very strong network, and all of this without being an expert.
There are at least a few thousand articles on the topic of online networking. The good thing about this is that it allows readers to try multiple things and do short and controlled experiments, which is something one must master in order to become antifragile. The bad thing is, well, there are so many tips and hints everywhere, and some of them contradict one another. So I’m not speaking as a LinkedIn expert. I’m speaking as someone who had no network a few years back, and who now has a very strong network, and all of this without being an expert. I experimented, I kept what worked, and discarded what didn’t.
How do I know it worked? Not necessarily because of the number of people in my network, but because the number of random people who would reach for me and say things such as “Your profile is so inspiring! How would anyone not want to work with someone like you?“
So, here is what worked for me.
1. Surround yourself with people who believe what you believe
Maintaining your network is a lot like leadership, hygiene and working out. It’s not something you do once or twice a year.
While adding recruiters will definitely help you in case of a catastrophe, it isn’t enough to become some kind of influencer. Unless you are in the recruitment field, that is. You must find people who connect with your values. My first tip is to join some LinkedIn groups that are dedicated to the topics that relate to what you do (or what you want to do), and start discussions. When someone replies, send them an invitation to join your network, with a nice presentation message. That’s a good way to do it. After you added someone, LinkedIn will also suggest other similar profiles that you can choose to add. Maintaining your network is a lot like leadership, hygiene and working out. It’s not something you do once or twice a year. Take a few minutes every day to do this. You will see a great difference after a few months.
2. Impressing people is not enough – inspire them!
Something that you need to remember is that your LinkedIn profile isn’t your résumé. A while ago, most of my LinkedIn profile was a listing of my past experiences, and for sure, it was impressing people. It was somewhat efficient, but I thought it was missing something. A human touch. It was too cold, too strategic, too “this is what they want to hear”. I then deleted everything and started over, and used my profile to tell people not about where I’m from, but where I’m going. I stopped talking mostly about my past experiences. I still kept the job history of course but I focused on what I learned from them rather than the responsibilities I had. I rewrote my whole profile by keeping my objectives, my why, in mind. My passion, my vocation, my why. And you’ll see that my summary contains a very nice Golden Circle (Why, How, What), inspired by Simon Sinek‘s work.
It was a game changer. Not only did people start writing to let me know of how inspiring my profile was, but they started asking for help and tips to improve their own profile. Sometimes they write just to let me know they wish we’d work together one day. I was impressed at how much a human touch could make a difference. If you want more insights on how to improve your LinkedIn summary, I highly recommend downloading Jena Viviano‘s Ultimate LinkedIn Summary Template. It’s free, and as a bonus, you’ll see my face in it, as Jena displayed my own summary as one of her multiple examples.
3. Find content that supports what you believe, and share it
Nowadays, I’m really into organizational culture, humanization of workplaces, modern leadership and such. This is my niche, and everything I share supports my beliefs in these fields. People who are also interested in these topics, and believe what I believe, love it and share my content as well.
There are many ways to gather relevant content on a given topic. Medium.com is an incredible source of articles. You can also create Google alerts on any kind of combination of words and it will notify you when related content is indexed. And just as I stated above, LinkedIn Groups will also come very handy to discover new content. For sharing the content you found and like, I suggest using a tool such as Social Pilot or Buffer to organize the content you want to share on social media. These tools can automatically post for you at any day and time you deem the best. Very handy for when you’re busy working!
4. Become an everyman’s leader on LinkedIn
An everyman’s leader is someone who helps as soon as there is an opportunity to help. You’ll find plenty of those on LinkedIn. I try to be this guy. In my case, half the time, it’s just people who reach for me and want to have a cup of coffee with me to get to know me. I’m always happy to oblige! It also creates more opportunities to help.
One very easy way to help someone it to introduce them to someone else who might help them more efficiently than you could. Both these people will remember how they met, and they’ll remember you.
It’s important to never ask for anything in return. If you do something for someone else only to ask something back, you’re doing this for the wrong reasons, and you’re certainly not being a leader. And by helping others for the sake of helping others, know that in the eventuality that you might desperately need something, your network will be there to pay it back to you.
For more information on everyman’s leaders, and other leadership roles, read this article by my friend Maurice Lefebvre: Of the 3 Leader Roles, Which One Are You Perfect For?
5. Engage with people
Recently, I figured that asking questions on LinkedIn was bringing me a lot of likes, comments, and views. Not that I care really for those: comments, likes, and views are less important than helping people or generating discussions, but it’s a good metric of success. I simply figured that by asking questions, I was creating new opportunities to help people. And it does. Also, observe what’s happening in your network. Read the comments on other people’s posts. There are tons of people there that could benefit from knowing something (or someone) you know. Don’t wait for people to ask. Reach for them directly!
This quote is one of the most important about networking, and there’s a very good leadership dimension to it that I really like:
The true value of networking doesn’t come from how many people we can meet but rather how many people we can introduce to others.
– Simon Sinek
Help others, and do it because it’s the right thing to do. This habit is not a networking habit, but a leadership habit, so it’s a pretty good one to adopt! People will eventually reach directly for you. That will be the first indication that your network is getting pretty strong!