Not a day goes by that I don’t get a request from someone I’ve never met to connect on LinkedIn. Usually it makes sense, but often it’s someone who just wants to rack up a huge digital network.
In my humble opinion, this isn’t the best way to network. Personal connections are much more valuable, more fulfilling and far more enduring. Let me share a little story…
Ten years ago I was planning a move from South Carolina to New Mexico, a big step for someone whose 15-year business was firmly rooted in the Carolinas. A client at Purdue University suggested I meet with a colleague of hers at the University of New Mexico (UNM) who could help make my transition to a new state smoother.
Taking the advice, I connected with Lisa at UNM, who graciously accepted my request to meet. After a great meeting, Lisa did something unexpected that would profoundly impact my professional and personal life. She gave me a list of ten people I needed to meet in New Mexico and said to use her name.
I couldn’t believe her generosity; it was like being handed the keys to the kingdom. Thanking her profusely, I took the list and got to work reaching out to the people on the list who could jumpstart my career in New Mexico. I made calls and emails. Did lunches and coffees. Visited corporate offices and humbler work spaces. Each conversation was an important building block. The most memorable meeting of all was the fellow who ordered three desserts at lunch instead of a sandwich; he went on to become one of my best clients and friends.
The list of people to meet, the endorsement that came with it, and the in-person meetings proved more powerful than LinkedIn could ever be. Two of the people I met became important clients and connectors. Not only did I work for their companies, they provided – and still provide – referrals to other clients and opportunities. These relationships led to clients not only in New Mexico, but in China and India. I’m on my third company with another New Mexico client; as he takes on new assignments, he brings me along as his writing and branding support.
My advice? Instead of adding another notch to your LinkedIn network, make the extra effort to build your network in person. Attend a conference. Join a professional group. Invite an acquaintance to lunch or coffee. And if you know someone who could use an introduction (or ten), introduce them to folks who have the potential to make a difference in their personal or professional lives.
The sooner the better – it is the season of giving.
Let’s expand our networks together. Contact me here and let’s schedule a call, coffee or lunch!