This past week, I had the pleasure to present two workshops at the Conference for Office Professionals organized by the Office of Human Resource Development at UW-Madison and the Madison Chapter of International Association of Administrative Professionals. The men and women present came from a variety of UW Departments, large Madison corporations, and individuals in career transition.
Many came to the first workshop wondering if or why they should use LinkedIn. Most already had an account on LinkedIn, but joined merely from an invitation to connect. Beyond that initial connection, they hadn’t done anything with their account and didn’t know where to begin.
As the workshop progressed, a good percentage of the attendees began to see the potential benefits of using LinkedIn, but still believed that they didn’t need it now. Perhaps if they needed to look for a new job or had a different position LinkedIn would become more relevant for them.
If I impressed upon the attendees anything, it was to Start Building Your LinkedIn Network Before You Need It. It’s much easy to make connections with coworkers, industry peers, and clients while you are still in regular contact with them. Social networking is about relationship building and that doesn’t happen overnight. Begin building your network NOW so they will be available to help you LATER. And, don’t just think about what someone can do for you in determining whether to connect with them. Keep thinking about what you can provide to your network now so they will be ready and willing to help you in the future.
One attendee who spoke with me after the workshop was very excited to go home and start the process of building her network. She is a few years away from retirement and wants to start preparing for the next chapter of her life. She knows she’ll need to have some sort of employment income throughout retirement but isn’t sure what that’s going to look like. As she said, “These kids I’m helping to choose classes now are potential rocket scientists. Who knows where they are going to end up?” And with that, I reminded her that she’s in a great position to give some recommendations to these students now through LinkedIn. By helping them get started in their careers, and keeping in touch with them through LinkedIn, she’ll be in a great position should one of these future rocket scientists need help on a project that matches her skill set.