I recently received an email from one of my LinkedIn Network Connections, asking me to deep dive into my LinkedIn network and refer work his way. He was very specific about the types of work he was interested in acquiring. At the end of his email to me, he noted that referrals work both ways, so he, of course, would be happy to return the favor.
I hadn’t heard from him in 10 months. Not a peep. Not since the last time he needed me to research my LinkedIn network connections and step up on his behalf since he was contemplating moving out of state and wanted me to hook him up with individuals who might help him find a senior position.
I didn’t respond. I didn’t act on his request. I didn’t feel obligated to come to his rescue. Again.
Why? He hasn’t remained engaged or in touch. He applies his LinkedIn network connections as-needed, when he needs the network to advocate for him. In the 4 years that I’ve known him, I haven’t ever received any referral business from him. I haven’t received any engagement on blog posts or discussion topics. Aside from a few lunches several years ago, I simply haven’t heard from him at all, in between his requests that I send him referral business.
There are other colleagues within my LinkedIn network connections that I’ve received similar requests from, and acted on. Why? We stay in touch, via In-Mail or regular email or the phone. These individuals are engaged in LI discussions, even when not with me directly. I read what their “take” is on specific topics. They are engaged in the community and, as a result, we remain engaged.
Another of my colleagues, with whom I worked in his former position, recently contacted me for assistance in identifying new professional opportunities. We ended up speaking for an hour on the phone, several times. He’s got his compass pointed towards an excellent horizon. He and I always remained in touch over the years, even if we were not chatting weekly on the phone. I knew what he was up to, the types of programs he was interested in, his professional skill sets. I understood when he reached out to me, via LinkedIn, for assistance that there was urgency and, due to our long-standing relationship, I responded.
Yet another of my LinkedIn network connections recently emailed me regarding advice for his startup. In his email, he established that we were connected on LI and why he was asking for my insights. He wondered whether I knew who he was. Of course I did. In spite of this being our first email exchange, he has constantly been involved in posting comments to my blog and participating in LI group discussions. We’ve been engaged over the years, even though not on a deep level. Did I respond to his request? Of course I did. And still am engaged.
Three different scenarios, with two types of outcomes.
If you are using your LinkedIn network connections as a form of static Rolodex file (yeah, an archaic phrase that everyone still understands) and collecting people whom you feel are obligated to come to your rescue if, and only if, you need them, perhaps it’s time to rethink your networking strategy. Unengaged connections have no relationship with you, if you make no attempt at seeking any further form of relationship other than adding their name to your list.
I try to reach out to as many people in my LinkedIn network Connections as possible to engage them, if not speak with them personally, for perhaps no more than a 10 minute introductory chat. I try to remain in touch with my network by offering what I feel is relevant and valuable content, not only my stuff, but the writings and philosophies of 50 of my colleagues. I know they read what I post. Some choose to comment. Others don’t. I focus on building an engaged community of Connections.
Your LinkedIn Network connections can make a tremendous difference as you career-build and business-build. Treat them with respect and don’t take them for granted. It’s all about the quality of your relationship with them and how you maintain that relationship through engagement.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo back into small and mid-sized businesses, particularly in the manufacturing sector. She builds vibrant revenue-producing business strategies for technical start-ups seeking investors and early customers.