When I first landed in Silicon Valley from France in 2008, I did not know a single soul. I had left behind a strong network, built the old fashioned way in Europe. Suddenly and truly “out of network,” I found myself among strangers.
Luckily for me, there was LinkedIn. In just a few months, I was able to establish a network of the strength and quality that would have taken years for me to build through traditional means.
Here are some of the simple yet powerful steps I took as I built my new network. If you need to re-establish yourself – either because of a relocation or because of a transformation in your professional life – I encourage you to consistently do all of these:
- Make connections. After every meeting I secured or event I attended, I was diligent about sending connection invites via LinkedIn to my new contacts while the connection was still fresh – usually the same day. More valuable than a business card, a LinkedIn connection keeps up with people as they move from one company to the next, so you never lose their contact info.
- Ask for introductions. Once connected to a new contact, I would ask for introductions to other interesting people, for example the decision makers in promotions and marketing at companies we wanted to work with. I got the best results when I provided plenty of context to help the person understand why making the introduction would benefit all parties. Connecting the dots in the network is about building value for everyone.
- Win recommendations. Just before leaving France, I asked all of my peers for recommendations on LinkedIn, resulting in a few dozen. These undoubtedly helped establish the levels of trust and credibility that I needed to conduct business.
- Flock together with Groups. LinkedIn Groups have been a powerful way for me to enter into conversations with highly connected people. I often join groups related to conferences I attend, such as Shop.org or ad:tech, where I can maximize the value of an event in advance by networking with other attendees. After the event, I again use the group to follow up on discussions and essentially extend the conference. The topical nature of groups means you can quickly zero in on the right people, the right conversations, and the right opportunities.
- Seek and you shall find. The Search feature on LinkedIn can yield amazing, often serendipitous results. Decision makers in promotions are notoriously difficult to reach, but through keyword searches such as “director of promotions” I was able to identify and eventually reach the right people.
- Gain status with updates. Posting regular status updates have been a smooth way to keep myself visible to my connections and establish a reputation for expertise over time. I often share compelling industry articles to keep my name top of mind, and use updates to let my network know I will be speaking at a particular conference in the hopes we can connect live at that event. I also use updates whenever my company is being featured in the press; it’s a low key way to spread the good news without overpromoting.
- Follow up on warm leads. LinkedIn has an interesting feature where you can see who have recently viewed your profile. When I notice someone I had a meeting with recently is now viewing my profile, I know they are thinking about the encounter and may be ready to make a decision. I was able to close one of our first big deals at Ifeelgoods through this kind of insight.
To this day, LinkedIn is the site I use the most, and it only continues to add more valuable resources and features. If you’ve been feeling “out of network” like I did when I first landed in Silicon Valley, there’s hope. LinkedIn has created an incredible platform for us to rebuild or reinvent our professional networks. You just have to use the tools.