I often tell people that I schedule an hour a week on my calendar for LinkedIn. And people often assume that this is to force me to remember to spend some time on the site, but really it is because I would love to spend much MUCH more time there, and so I schedule an hour to remind myself to be mindful and really maximize the time that I can invest!
So what do I do with that hour?
Well, that depends on what I am looking for. These days, I have been traveling quite a bit to give my “Whither Linguistics?” workshop. So the research that I am doing is mainly geographical. I plug in the zipcode for the place that I am going to be and I see who is there. Often people have moved and I simply didn’t know that they now lived in Boulder, CO for example, but sometimes this is just to take stock. To remind myself who it is that I actually know in the area and how it is that I know them. If the event is open to the public, I will invite folks who I think might be interested to attend. And /or often, I will organize a happy hour or get-together of some kind for linguists, or maybe I want to get plugged in with the local storytelling scene.
So yeah, I always spend a portion of my LinkedIn hour researching. When I was first on LinkedIn, this research was about looking for model profiles on which to base my professional self-presentation. If I were in job search mode, I might be researching jobs. If I were in career education mode, I might be trying to identify organizations of interest. If I were about to go on a job interview, this time could be spent in researching an organization. LinkedIn can help me learn about, and gives me access to information given (how they present themselves in their company page) and information given off (including how they are positioned in the marketplace by looking at “people also viewed”). With a robust enough network, you can also begin to research things like where people worked at before they came to an organization and where they left to go afterwards.
That means that in order to do better and better research you want to have a robust and highly curated network.
And so I do spend a portion of my hour finding some people that I know “IRL.” I love to play the game that LinkedIn calls “people you may know.” I play this as a game of memory “hmm, where do I know this person from?” My own little version of lumosity!
I also spend a portion of this time making requests for introductions and responding to requests for introductions. Usually there is some project that a student is working on (last week this was “are there any linguists who now work in zoos?” turns out there are) or some industry specialization that I am trying to build competency around (storytelling in science is a big one nowadays), and so typically, I will accept or make a couple “requests for introduction” in a given week. Typically, at the most, only one of those will turn into an actual conversation, which is about right for me.
I am always looking for speakers to invite to the MLC, for which, I am also always looking for great prospective students. I want to identify potential employers for my alum and then I am also always looking for folks to interview for my own research on professional self-presentation. Some people are more active networkers, or need to be in a more active networking mode for building a business etc, but for me, keeping track of about fifty new people a year seems perfect. Be mindful of what you are looking for and needing and what you can manage. LinkedIn can help of course, but you want to curate a database that will actually serve you, and when you have too many 1st degree connections such that you are connected to people who you are not actually connected to in any way, that starts to become a problem.
Pruning. I will spend a small portion of that hour doing connection maintenance by removing people that I have not actually managed to talk to, people who I thought I might meet, but didn’t, and people who I can’t remember at all much less why I invited them or agreed to connect. LinkedIn is a powerful fulcrum and it can help us do more with the network that we have, but all of this still does come back to the fact that we are human beings and as human beings our brains can only hold so much information, and maintain so many social relationships at any given time. LinkedIn is a great place to maintain a link with people who you happen to have fallen out of touch with over time, but if you have never actually connected with a “connection” in any way shape or form, take them out of your 1st degree connections.
Finally, I look for a chance to pay it forward.
I spend the last few minutes of this hour thinking about who might be looking for a connection, for an opportunity right now. Who might I share a resource or an idea with? Who can I help to stay “top of mind” for someone else? We all know that great things can happen when the right things are top of mind, so I try to meditate for a moment for some “noisy nots” – some needs or gaps that I am aware of, and I ask myself whether there might be a way that I might help to make some luck happen