LinkedIn Tip on Groups and Associations


[UPDATE: April 25, 2008] The technique described below no longer works, as it appears that LinkedIn has closed up this loophole recently. They did, however, at the same time add the ability to add people directly from the groups described as ‘Group B’ as explained below. I don’t know if this is a permanent change, so I’ll just leave this caveat here in case someone gets confused about why this technique no longer works, as one commenter of the posting has already noticed.

I have written about LinkedIn in the past including an entry entitled What is LinkedIn? and one on LinkedIn tips and tricks. I am the committee chairman for LinkedIn for a local networking group called NoCoNet. We have our own group on LinkedIn which is only available to members of NoCoNet. You can see in the list below that we have our own logo. This allows our members to contact each other directly even if they are not directly connected on LinkedIn or even if they do not have an email address for that person. It also gives us a way to search for and find our members on LinkedIn. However, it does not allow one member to invite another member to join networks. I guess LinkedIn’s idea behind these groups is that you should get to know a person first via a LinkedIn message exchange which will then give you that person’s email address and you may use that to invite the person to join networks as a ‘friend’ or ‘other’.

However, I can think of examples where you may have lost the email address of a person you know or have an expired email address and would like to connect with the person if you find him on LinkedIn. So here’s a workaround. In the list above, I have divided the groups up into two categories, A and B. The A affiliations are those which you can create yourself. The B groups are managed by a group manager which you can only join by permission or invitation. Recall that you can send messages to another group member in group B through LinkedIn, but you cannot directly add a person from group B to your network unless you know his email address. However, LinkedIn allows you to add anyone to your network without knowing their email address if you share an affiliation from list A. Here’s the strange part. LinkedIn doesn’t require that the invitee actually have that affiliation listed in his profile. It works the same way as if you shared a company or school affiliation.

Here’s an example I can think of on how to use it. Please keep in mind that I don’t ever recommend inviting anyone who does not know you, only people with whom you’ve already established some connection outside of LinkedIn. Suppose you had met someone on an Alaskan cruise but subsequently lost the person’s email address. Then if you found that person on LinkedIn and wish to reconnect with him, you could ask for an introduction through someone else in your network, assuming he is within 3 levels of you. If he is not, or if you don’t want to bother anyone else in the network for an introduction, you can simply make up an affiliation such as “Alaskan Cruise 2005” and add it to your profile and then request to add that person to your network using the Groups and Affiliations option and selecting Alaska Cruise 2005. After you’ve joined networks, you can simply delete that group.

LinkedIn tips for beginners


I posted here recently on the topic of ‘What is LinkedIn?’ There’s not much reason to join LinkedIn unless you actually intend to use it to link to others to form a network. So today I’ll discuss some tips for building a network. I should mention that LinkedIn appears to have more members in high technology fields than other professions so you may want to keep that in mind when you’re looking to connect to people. As time goes on, that may change. But I’m sure LinkedIn will always favor those professions where on-line networking is valuable.

Here are some tips I have found helpful in growing a LinkedIn network:

1. Think of people you have worked with during your career and search for their names on LinkedIn. If you find them, request a link to them. There are a number of ways to do this, and if you’ve worked at the same company or went to the same school, then you don’t need to know the person’s current email address. If you do not have those affiliations, but know the person’s email address, then you can describe the person as ‘other’ or ‘friend’ and supply the email address when prompted. You should change the standard invitation text to personalize it a little.

2. Whenever someone from your past pops into your mind when you’re away from your computer, make a note to look them up on LinkedIn when you’re near a computer. This way you can re-connect with old friends and acquaintances you may have lost touch with over the years.

3. If you have a Rolodex or a collection of business cards, go through them as time permits and search for people with whom you would like to stay in touch.

4. You will probably get offers to join networks with someone you do not personally know who has 500 or more connections. Take them. This greatly expands your network and as such, your visibility on the LinkedIn network. People sometimes worry that taking connections from strangers puts them in an awkward position of possibly having to provide feedback about a stranger, but you’ll likely never be asked to do this, and if you are, you can just explain that you connected to the person as a courtesy.

5. Whenever you get a request to connect, you should accept it or archive it. You should not choose the ‘I don’t know this person’ option because if a person gets 5 of those, his account will be frozen. Most people are unaware of this and you don’t want to be the one who gets the person kicked off of LinkedIn.

6. If you find someone in your network who you’d like to connect with but don’t have an affiliation or email address, then you can request an introduction through someone in your network that is connected to that person. The top linked people with 500 or more connections are used to getting these requests and will nearly always pass them along to the person.

7. Periodically scan through the connections of your 1st level connections that have the potential for mutual connections. This is a good way to jog your memory and possibly reconnect with a long lost friend or colleague. Even if someone is already in your network as a 2nd or 3rd level connection, there is a benefit to making a 1st level connection with a person because it will pull more of his or her connections into your network.

8. If you want recommendations from your connections you will usually have to ask for them. Be prepared to write a recommendation for anyone from whom you request a recommendation. This means you should not ask for a recommendation from someone who you are not willing to recommend yourself. Otherwise you may find yourself in the awkward position of returning the favor for someone you may not know well enough to recommend, or, worse yet, someone for whom you cannot write a favorable recommendation.

9. List skills in your profile that you enjoy doing and are hoping to use again. You may not want to show up in searches for work that you are not interested in doing again so you might consider leaving those off your profile if that’s the case.

10. Become familiar with the ‘Advanced Search’ option which allows you to narrow down your search based on more specific criteria than just a person’s name.

11. If you have a blog or website, either put a link to your LinkedIn profile or an invitation to connect to you in a prominent location on the page. If you do invite readers to connect with you, encourage them to change the standard invitation text to something other than the generic, “Please join my LinkedIn Network”, by letting you know they found you from your blog or website.

Understand that not everyone from whom you request a connection will honor the request. Some may be following the LinkedIn policy of only connecting to people whom they’ve actually worked with and know well. Sometimes the invitation email gets trapped by a spam filter. Other times it may take a few weeks or even months for someone to discover the request. Don’t be discouraged if this happens on occasion.

This was just a small subset of tips for building your network on LinkedIn. If you do a Google search on the topic of “LinkedIn tips”, you’ll find many more.

What is LinkedIn?


LinkedIn is a professional networking group whose purpose is to provide its members a way to search and connect with each other to find jobs, people, and business opportunities in the network. The basic premise behind the service is a sort of on-line Rolodex that updates itself automatically.

An individual’s LinkedIn network consists of one’s immediate connections in addition to people who are 2 levels of being connected to any of those connections. So, as long as someone is within 3 levels of connecting to you, you may contact that person through an intermediate connection. It’s not unusual to significantly expand your overall network by adding a single connection, especially if that connection is well-linked. By the time I got to 30 connections, my network had grown to hundreds of thousands of people. Today I have nearly 150 connections and my total network is nearly 3 million people. There are about 14 million members on LinkedIn with many more joining daily.

Members typically put information in their profiles that is similar to what you’d find on a resume, such as their skills, the companies they’ve worked for, and schools they’ve attended. If you have worked at the same company as another member you find on LinkedIn, or went to the same school, it’s very easy to ask for a direct connection without the need to have an email address for them. However, LinkedIn’s stated policy is that members should only connect to people they know well and trust. This policy is not enforced, and rarely is it strictly adhered to by members. Some of the most enthusiastic LinkedIn members will connect to anyone, and, depending on one’s goals in using LinkedIn, it may be better aligned with an individual’s needs to do that. For example, if your purpose is to recruit employees, the more connections you make, the more search results you’ll get when trying to fill a job opening. So a recruiter will often want to have as many connections as possible. Similarly, if you’re looking for a job, you would benefit by connecting to more members since that will make it more likely you’ll show up in a search. You don’t have to worry about spam-like contacts on LinkedIn because if a person tries to connect to everyone on the network, they only need 5 reports from other members that ‘I don’t know this person’ before his account will be frozen. So that works to prevent unlimited random connection requests from people who are trying to just get large numbers of connections.

I first heard about LinkedIn a few years ago from a friend who had joined it. He invited me to join which resulted in me filling out a very short profile and then I waited for people to connect to me. This didn’t work very well. I got only a few invitations to connect to others in the first few years. Most requests were from people who were recruiters or “top linkers.” “Top linkers” is a term for people who try to collect as many links as possible without regard for knowing and trusting the individuals to whom they connect. They are usually recruiters.

It wasn’t until a few months ago when I knew I’d be leaving HP that I started requesting links of others that my network began to grow. Once it hit a critical mass of about 30 connections, I started getting more frequent requests from others to link to them, but most of my links have come as a result of being proactive about sending invitations to connect. I should mention that even when I had very few connections, I got a call from a recruiter at Apple who was looking to hire me away from HP. I also know a colleague I worked with at HP who recently landed a great job as a result of being found on LinkedIn with a keyword search.

I think a lot of people who join LinkedIn fall into the trap of waiting for something to happen like I did at first. Until you fill in your profile and make your first few links, you will be very hard to find on LinkedIn. Also, even if people do find you, they may conclude that you’re a reluctant participant if you only have a few connections. I sometimes find when I try to link to someone with only a few connections, I may not get a response from them. In some cases I’ve found that they forgot their LinkedIn login credentials or are using an email they don’t bother to check very often. In any event, if you want something to happen, you’ll need to put forth some effort in building your LinkedIn network.

The principle behind LinkedIn is similar to any professional network’s mission, that is, ‘giving to get’. Whenever I hear anyone complain about LinkedIn, it’s usually a result of not yet having adopted this helpful mindset. If someone is trying to remain anonymous on the Internet, or if they don’t like getting requests to help people, some of whom might be strangers, then LinkedIn may not be a good match for them. On the other hand, if someone is eager to network with others and has a friendly attitude toward helping others, then LinkedIn can be quite beneficial.

I don’t mind linking to people I don’t know yet, especially when we have something in common. I invite people I meet through my technical help web sites to link to me and have gotten connections to some very skilled and helpful people as a result. If you are a member of LinkedIn and would like to link to me, you can just add me as a friend using this email address: You can change the standard LinkedIn greeting to let me know you found me through this blog posting.

Next time I’ll cover some tips on how to build your LinkedIn network.