By Neil Patrick
Linkedin holds the key to a world of opportunity for all of us, if we can just learn to accept one simple truth...
I discuss LinkedIn a lot with my offline network.
I also chastise many of my professional friends for their failures to take it seriously. The main reason I do this is that they only think about it when it is too late. Like when they lose their job, or are struggling to progress some aspect of their career or business.
LinkedIn cannot and will not deliver benefits for you if you only turn to it when you desperately need help…unless you have invested already for months and years beforehand.
But if you have already made that investment, then you’ll have a network of relevant connections that can you can turn to. People who know something or someone that you need.
And if you have paid it forward, investing in helping others in your network, with absolutely no demand for anything in return, you’ll have their goodwill too.
But it’s not a mechanical process. It has an element of randomness about it for sure.
A few months ago I happened to see a particularly erudite and insightful comment posted on LinkedIn. I wasn't in any way connected to the poster. So I simply clicked ‘like’ and wrote one sentence of praise.
Total time invested? About 60 seconds.
The poster happened to be a very senior investment banker. He invited me to connect which I did. Several emails and phone calls flowed from this over the following weeks. We had an easy rapport. We got to know each other properly. We discovered how we could collaborate and be of value to each other.
We now have a very productive business relationship, where we provide real value to each other.
In the real world, our paths would never have crossed.
Today, I know I can pick up the phone to him at any time and discuss anything where I think he can be of help.
That’s just one example. I have dozens more similar stories I could tell you. Every relationship is different, but they all started in the same way…a more or less random encounter on social media.
And this is why I think people struggle with seeing the value of social media for their careers. If you’re in manufacturing, you think in term of raw materials, processes and the value of goods you can sell. If you are more financially focussed, you want to see the return on every investment you make. If I spend this…what do I get back?
But this misses the point entirely. I accept that 90% of the connections I make on LinkedIn will never create any value directly beyond some friendly exchanges and perhaps a tip off here and there. But by the same token, 10% of them will be priceless. I just don’t know which ones. And I never will.
Pharmaceutical firms view their businesses in a similar way. They invest billions every year in research and development of new drugs. And they know that 90% or more of them will never get to market, let alone earn them any revenues.
But they also know that they only have to have one which does make it through to generate millions or even billions of revenues in the future. And so they continue to invest steadily in potential new treatments, in the full knowledge that most will fail.
It’s exactly the same with LinkedIn. You only need one job, one person, one exchange to transform everything and change your prospects. One change to your profile can transform how others see you. One comment can lead to a world of opportunity.
And the only way that will happen is if you invest steadily every day in a way which makes sense for the outcomes you are seeking.
If you are mindful and focussed, you will achieve the outcomes you seek.
Just don’t expect LinkedIn to deliver unless you have committed to it with a purpose from the start. And paid your dues.