Finding people on LinkedIn isn’t a matter of locating people you already know. You should, of course, start there. But the real genius of LinkedIn isn’t connecting with people you know – it’s connecting with people you don’t know through people you do know.
Facebook, and maybe Twitter, are close rivals. Facebook has an incredibly large following and so it definitely offers some networking value. And Twitter, too, is large. But Linkedin was designed from day one to fill the professional angle of social media. As such, it’s designers have molded everything around creating professional connections.
So, while LinkedIn does offer a social component, its core competency is helping you tap the unadvertised job market, which, according the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, is around three-fourths of all job openings. And it does this brilliantly through Connections – the term used to describe when two people are, well… connected electronically.
Let me explain how finding people on LinkedIn works.
LinkedIn has three levels of connectivity with people, plus one other. First-Level, Second-Level, Third-Level, and Group Connections.
First-Level connections are people you have connected with – one of you sent the other an invitation to connect and one or the other accepted it. It’s sorta like becoming “friends” on Facebook.
Second-Level Connections are people you are NOT connected with, but that are connected with someone you are connected with. So, a friend of a friend, so to speak.
Third-Level Connections are also people you are NOT connected with, but that are connected to someone who is a second-level connection of yours. So, a friend of a friend of a friend. That may seem irrelevant to you but you would be surprised at how many of those connections lead to jobs.
A fourth one is simply called a Group Connection. LinkedIn has tons of Groups – several related to dental hygiene even. So if you belong to that group, you are given a Group Connection to everyone in the group.
TIP: the largest dental hygiene group “Dental Hygienists” is co-managed by me, so join us and get instantly connected to nearly 20,000 other dental hygienists.
Finding People on LinkedIn
Now that you have an idea of the different types of connections, let’s talk about a connections strategy.
Step One: Establish Your Base of Contacts
The first step is to quickly make as many connections as possible with the people you know or have met in person. You can enter names in the search bar at the top of the page for those that are REALLY important – employers, co-workers, etc.
LinkedIn also encourages you to connect your LinkedIn account with your email account so that contacts can be added in bulk. This will save you lots of time and will quickly get you a dozen or two or maybe more.
Step Two: Branch Out
Your first LinkedIn network is made up of your first-level connections – all the people you are directly connected to on LinkedIn (sorta like “friends” on Facebook). Your total number of first-level connections shows on your profile page (until your network reaches 500, after that, LinkedIn displays it as 500+). To see the true scope of your first network, click on “Advanced Search,” which you’ll find next to the LinkedIn search bar on the top center of any LinkedIn page.
When you do that a new window appears over the top of your page (see image Image A to the right) that allows you to perform some advanced searches. From here you can see lots of different ways to filter not only your first-level connections, but second-level and group connections.
Now, close the overlay (see upper right corner “close” button) so you can see the page that’s sort of hidden. In the left-hand margin you will see a run-down of your network relationships: your first, second, and group connections.
Who are the second and group connections? Good question!
Second- and Group-Level Connections
Your second-level connections are all those people your first-level contacts are connected to – so those are the friends of your friends, so to speak. And your Group connections are all those folks with whom you share a LinkedIn Group membership (assuming you have joined some groups).
If you haven’t joined any groups in LinkedIn, then join some. I help administrate the a largest dental hygiene group page, which I am linking here so you can join it. I promise I will let you in!
While your first-level connections are a very important part of your overall LinkedIn network, it’s important to pay attention to them. However, you already have some sort of connection to them and the idea of networking is to grow your network. There’s no better way to grow a network than by leveraging the network you are already have.
So, on your connections page and under the Relationships section in the left panel, leave the 2nd Connections box checked along the left panel, then un-check the first and group connections. Looking closely at this list you will probably see some or many who are not even in the dental industry. So you will want to filter it even more with selections below that. You can filter it with the free version of LinkedIn by Location, Company, Industry, and several others. If you have the paid version of LinkedIn you can filter it even more.
Filtering allows you to zero in on people you are not connected with who can potentially help you in your local or extended job search. The cool thing is, they ARE connected with someone you are connected with. That allows you to ask your connection for a formal introduction of the second level connection. But, if they don’t know them or feel comfortable with that, you can look for things you have in common and invite them to connect based on that.
I’ve written in the past about the importance of approaching all networking with an attitude of what you can give first, so you can get later. So when you reach out to new people, look for ways in which you can offer to help them or involve them. Maybe invite them to a symposium or training opportunity, using your commonalities as a way to help break the ice. If it looks like they are looking for a job, offer to keep your eyes open for them.
When you do that, it opens the door to them wanting to help you, which may or may not be necessary right away but perhaps down the road. You can see in Image B that I have filtered my own list down in such as as to only display second-level connections who live in the US, work in specific company and industry. This narrows the thousands down to just over 200.
Once you have gone through your second-level connections, you can repeat this same approach with your group connections. There’s even a third-level of connections you can see in the Relationship section that you can identify. Most of these are going to be a big stretch, but there could be a key person in there you want to connect with and so it’s worth going through the exercise of trying to reach out to them though things you have in common.
If you don’t belong to any groups, I would highly recommend joining the largest dental hygiene one of all that I happen to co-manage. Click here and you can request to join it right now – that will connect you with 17,000 hygienists once you are accepted and give you a really large base of potential new first-level connections.
By segmenting your LinkedIn network, you can proactively expand your first-level connections while simultaneously building stronger and more meaningful relationships with these people. Just remember to practice the “give to get” approach to networking and you’ll become a very successful networker in person and on LinkedIn.