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SQLAndy

I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.

LinkedIn

I've been slowly looking at and experimenting with LinkedIn to see if it has value and if so, how to unlock it in a way that works for me. I mentioned it during my series on networking and since I've evolved a strategy that I think is interesting for now, though it can perhaps be richer still. We'll see! Anyway, the strategy:

  • I've set a reminder for every two weeks to update my "what am I doing" section - this is to remind my network that I'm alive and doing stuff, and I think is a subtle and non irritating way to do so
  • At the same time, I browse my network for 5 minutes and look for people that they know and that I know - where I define "know" as having had at least one good conversation or email thread

My efforts are based on the idea that while I have a large network, I can't currently access it easily. Yes, it's nice to measure, but what if I want to hire an employee or find someone with certain skills to help out someone I know? Or want to try to get a SQLSaturday started in a city and don't know anyone there? Maybe a little vague, but the essence of networking is faith, you have to believe it will matter sometime - but that's also why I've time boxed my efforts for now. By the end of the year I'm hoping to grow my network to 250 (from about 60 now), and then if it looks like it's worth continuing, set a much higher goal for 2010.

I'd also like to point out that a valid way to "know me" is to be a regular reader of my blog. It's a conversation of sorts, and if you find value in returning here on a regular basis (and reading this far) I can easily imagine that we could have a long talk over coffee and get along well. If you're interested, join my network without any worry about not being worthy!

Comments

Posted by Steve Jones on 22 March 2009

It's interesting that you are looking for ways to reach out. To me I see LinkedIn as another network I have that I can "broadcast to" and get a response. Or to ask a question about hiring and have someone reach to their network, which is a semi-overlapping network for me.

I think Twitter/Facebook/Plaxo serve the same purpose. Another network to use.

Posted by Andy Warren on 22 March 2009

Broadcast works in some cases, maybe even many cases. The challenge about broadcasting is figuring out what is appropriate. One thing to Twitter about something, something else to send an email to your entire contact list.

Whether you broadcast or directly target, it's nice to have a bigger pool to draw from. I'll have a follow up in about 2 weeks to chart my strategy so far.

Posted by kgayda on 24 March 2009

I like LinkedIn for having my professional contacts in one place.  I can usually find a good resource for what I need from my direct contacts or via recommendation of people whom I've worked with and whose judgment I trust.

Posted by Joe Noll on 26 March 2009

I have been using it as a way to associate with other friends in my field that are spread out across a large area that I do not get to be in touch with everyday. It has allowed me, at least in a minor way, stay abreast of what everyone is doing.

Posted by JunkMail Victim on 26 March 2009

This question comes out of curiousity, not criticism.  I see a lot of people collecting a large number of connections, almost like they are stamp collecting.  I'm on LinkedIn myself, but I'm pretty selective about who I connect with.  I'm wondering what you believe the value of 250 connections is for you, and what value you believe you bring to others by being their connection?  I guess that's two questions.  Thanks.

Posted by Andy Warren on 26 March 2009

Junkmail - it's a fair question and definitely depends on how you want to define your network, though in practice I think it has to be a bit gray. 250 was arbitrary, but represented a first guess at the number of "real" contacts I had but had not captured in LinkedIn. The value for me is it (as Joe above said) gives me a way to lightly stay in touch with and not let the relationship wither away entirely - eventually I suspect my network will lead me to a job/opportunity/something. I also equally appreciate the chance to see what those people I know are doing in a simple fashion.

On the other side, I'd guess people connect to me because they read the blog/articles, or see me do a presentation, and would like to see what else I'm doing, and also because I'm somewhat well known and have a diverse range of connections.

It's the essence of networking for me that it's a leap of faith, you do it hoping you meet someone that eventually helps you or vice versa, but you can never know whether that will be someone you worked with every day for a year, or someone you chatted with for 15 minutes at a conference.

Posted by Aaron N. Cutshall on 26 March 2009

I must admit that I cannot personally see the value in connecting to as many people as possible as some do.  They seem to treat it as a contest to see how many people they can link to.  They even broadcast that they will accept any and all link requests.

I link only to those that I actually know via some sort of relationship (professional, social, etc.).  That's what makes the links worthwhile and useful.  If those that you link with also make only worthwhile links, then those are relationships that you can count on when you need them.

Posted by Andy Warren on 26 March 2009

Aaron, I don't know that I disagree with you. How about in my case opening it up to those that regularly read my blog - do you disagree with that, or not see value at least for me in turning invisible readers into visible connections?

Posted by GSquared on 26 March 2009

I think turning your blog readers into contacts in LinkedIn would make sense.  Even if you don't know them, to one degree or another they know you.

Posted by Robert.Sterbal on 26 March 2009

You might want to promote LinkedIn groups contacts that are associated by affinity rather then communication back and forth.

Posted by Andy Warren on 26 March 2009

GSquared - blogs are interesting, they know me a LOT better than I know them:-) Maybe connecting will change that some!

Posted by Andy Warren on 26 March 2009

Robert, I think groups are definitely part of the strategy and I'll write up more detail thoughts on that probably next week.

Posted by Roy Ernest on 26 March 2009

I have had linkedin for nearly 8 months I think. So far I have just 13 connections..lol

I am really bad at networking.

Posted by Andy Warren on 26 March 2009

Roy, rather than say you're bad, maybe better to say you haven't focused on it enough yet! You definitely have to work through the quantity/quality goals you want to pursue before you start in...Earnest!

Posted by Matt Simmons on 26 March 2009

I've been using LinkedIn to reconnect and to network for future jobs, keeping abreast of who's where from my old companions and coworkers.  I'm also considering how to use LinkedIn as an asset for my nieghborhood association, possibly as a micro job board. If there is a job in the neighborhood why not hire locally if possible.  Waiting to see if anything comes to fruition there.

Posted by Donald E. Weigend on 26 March 2009

This is an interesting discussion. I have to admit that I never heard of LinkedIn until recently.  My only experience with it is through an ex-employee of ours that has a large presence on LinkedIn. If you read what is posted there about this person you would think he would be the greatest employee ever but in fact he was the worse I have seen.  The issue with him was that he had no work ethic, loaded his workstation with a bunch of games and pretty much surfed the sports web sites during the day.  In eight months of employee he accomplished nothing and was eventually fired. My feeling about LinkedIn or anything like it is take anything on it with a grain of salt, so to speak.

Posted by TimothyAWiseman on 26 March 2009

I would be interested if you follow up with whether or not this has proven useful to you.  I have been watching social networks for some time now with cautious interest.  

They certainly strike me as interesting, but I have heard of a great many people causing problems for themselves with them, and I have heard of many others where the time they spend on them vastly outweighs the benefits.

Posted by Peter Evans on 26 March 2009

Andy, I agree with your sentiment about the network being a place to find useful contacts but I can also agree with some of the sentiments of the other users who have been caught out by people just collecting people as 'tokens'.  I am using the network myself to connect to people who may be able to assist me in my goal of emmigrating to the US and provide me with insight into emerging trends in our business.  I find your blog and the site in general an immensely useful source of information which assists me in my roles here in the UK.  Regards to all.

Posted by Andy Warren on 26 March 2009

Donald - totally agree. Nothing about knowing someone via LinkedIn guarantees anything. I'd check their profile if I was interviewing them, but I wouldn't hire them based on it (though conversely, I might NOT hire them if it was poorly done in some way)

Posted by Andy Warren on 26 March 2009

Matt, the micro job board is interesting. They've done a pretty good job as it were on the group functionality. The gotcha...if there is one...is what happens when you have to really moderate it to keep it usable.

Posted by Andy Warren on 26 March 2009

Timothy, definitely a couple follow ups to come. I'm trying to figure a strategy for me, a strategy for...let's say the average DBA who is employed but not looking but wants to be prepared, and looking further, ideas I can use at the PASS Summit that I can use in our networking events there.

Posted by Andy Warren on 26 March 2009

Peter, glad you find the blog useful! I think the reason many of us find networking tools interesting/frustrating is we like precision - networking is very analog and not very precise. Best you can do is adopt a strategy that fits you and just move forward with it.

Posted by Jack Corbett on 26 March 2009

I am on LinkedIn and connected to Andy.  My use is interesting in that, most of my connections are people I interact with in other ways, so LinkedIn isn't anything more than another way of keeping track of people I know.  Most of my contacts I keep in touch with in ways other than LinkedIn.  One thing it can help with, is making sure you do keep in touch with your connections.  I may see something pass by in LinkedIn about a connection and it will spur me to make contact with them to keep the connection active.  

As far as numbers, I only ask people to connect with me that I already have a relationship with and would be willing to contact personally for help in their areas of expertise.  I do connect with people that ask me to link to them because I think they probably think similarly and now I believe they would be willing to help me as well.

Posted by Andy Warren on 26 March 2009

Jack, I think thats a fair strategy and very conservative. I tend towards conservative most days too! The question is, are you (we) missing out somehow by not casting a wider net? What about everyone that came to see you speak at oPASS or SQLSaturday, would you consider them?

Posted by Steve Jones on 26 March 2009

I think it's a question of how you choose to use the network. 250 people might help you answer a question, get a job, or something I haven't seen.

I just accept connections, and I think I have a few hundred connections, but I haven't tried to exploit it or really use it. More I allow people to connect through me if they see value.

It's definitely a fad for some people, but there are a lot of people using it that never networked before. They might never have gone to a networking event and made an effort to meet people. Most of the time I've done that I meet lots of people, but it's the rare person that stands out as someone I'd make an effort to connect with. LinkedIn (FB, Twitter, etc.) allow me to maintain a casual connection with a few more people than I would otherwise do. I think my network of "great contacts" is probably just a few dozen.

Posted by Jack Corbett on 26 March 2009

Andy,

I think it comes down to how are you going to use the connections.  I'm limiting the connections based on if I would be comfortable dropping them an email or giving them a call.

If I were using it to try to drive traffic to my blog or to have resources to find work I might be better off with a wider net.  

I'm sure I am missing people that I should have like Kendal or some other guys from OPASS/SQLSaturday.  But what is great is I get to see them if you or Steve are connected to them so I am reminded to add them.  

Posted by michael sorens on 31 March 2009

Not a mention of the potential nefarious acts possible. Some have hinted slightly at it by mentioning that they prefer to be selective, while others have said here that they will accept any link requests. Wow! I get so much spam already; I cannot imagine how much more I would get by accepting links to anybody who asks, or worse!

I once had a request from someone who somehow had heard of me and invited me to join his other 14,000 connections. I passed. Another time I had a link request from a person who worked at the same company yet it was someone I had never met, so I also declined. I really like that LinkedIn provides collegiate and workplace filters from which I can hunt for potential contacts but I still need some relationship before connecting, such as a forum  interaction, or perhaps someone who had written to me about one of my DevX articles.

Yes, you could say I am being ultra-conservative or even paranoid about this. But consider this: A couple years ago I started keeping track of my electronic footprint (or at least the part I am aware of!). Between credit cards, banks, brokerages, magazines, doctors, utilities, etc. I enumerated over 300 organizations that have my name and/or address and/or birth date and/or SSN ... It was positively frightening. Oh, but I forgot all those online accounts needed in order to post comments (SqlServerCentral, DevX, CastleCops, Cnet, Mozilla, TechSupportGuy, LavaSoft, CodeProject, ...) These probably double if not triple my e-footprint!

Yes, I know that with Pipl or spokeo or the like anyone can open lots of doors with hardly any effort, but I believe there is no need to give them the key.

Posted by Andy Warren on 31 March 2009

Michael, I'll have a post coming up about the privacy concerns. A deeper example than you mentioned is that by looking at my contacts you can see my attorney and my accountant. What if I was seeing a shrink and listed that? Or a divorce/bankruptcy attorney?

They offer some options to manage it, and I'm exploring those, and in the end the question becomes is LinkedIN the right tool for me,or you, and how do we know when? My take so far is that the pros far outweigh the cons, but I hope to end up being able to present a balanced view and a plan.

As far as spam I've seen zero that I know of, typically I recognize the name or they reference my post. Could the latter be spam? Sure, but for now I'd rather risk that over missing out on some great people.

Posted by Eduard on 2 April 2009

Andy, it's true employers look at social sites. I know of one case where certain info resulted in not finding the person suitable for the job (director of security something).

On the other hand i wonder if i would like to keep contact with people who think i'm "stupid" because i have a shrink in my list. The shrink could be a long time good friend. Perhaps it's a luxury attitude though if you have difficulty finding a job...

Posted by Andy Warren on 2 April 2009

Eduard, I think all we can do is understand the complexities, then make a decision one way or the other, but it is the danger/usefulness of exposing much more information that makes it so interesting! Most of us now expect an employer to do a web search, but for most of us that is going to return very little information. Once we buy into -tool of your choice - that can change quickly.

Posted by Clinton Gallagher on 6 April 2009

LinkedIn has become litle more than a white-collar spam aggegator for the slimiest people in the workplace --marketers-- using the forums and commenting features to troll and spam.

Some of the assinine trolls I've observed are sending 3-5 and more spams a day --in a row-- "ANNOUNCING" inane crap.

YOU THINK TWITTER IS BAD? Hardy Har Har

It wouldn't be so bad if there were peer moderation but these days the peers who dare say anything are denigrated and ostracized by some goon "moderator" who then threatens the person speaking out with punishment.

Posted by Andy Warren on 7 April 2009

Clinton, I imagine I've been lucky so far not to have been bothered with that stuff. I'm definitely curious to see it evolve and if the available LI profile settings give me the control to manage it or not.

So far its useful and interesting, but unclear whether it will be a long term solution for me - all I know now is that I need some way to manage my network, and this looked to be more effective than Outlook contacts.

Posted by Anonymous on 19 April 2009

As some of you may have read already, Andy Warren‘s series on LinkedIn ( part 1 , 2, 3 ) and networking

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