Let me preface this with the fact that many of you will disagree with me. And by the grace of God, we live in the United States where everyone is entitled to their opinion. We can agree to disagree! This article is based on my ten years on LinkedIn, the mistakes I made, and the model that is successful.
In the Beginning of LinkedIn - I was an early adopter of LinkedIn and connected to everyone that asked. The more people you connect to, the better your network, right? Within 30 days I was overwhelmed with requests for introductions and referrals. My favorite was, "You know Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, can you introduce me, I want to sell him something." That is the equivalent of going to a networking event and throwing business cards at people. If I sent those people to Tony Hsieh he would bury me in a hole in the desert. So I quickly removed the connections of folks anyone I did not know personally. Problem solved. You know why? Because your real friends rarely ask for favors.
No Cold Calls - Cold calling Recruiters on LinkedIn is the equivalent of applying to online job postings. I get ten to twenty per day. Keep in mind that Executive Recruiters get people for jobs....not jobs for people. Recruiters focus on executives they know personally and those referred by a trusted source. Representing candidates that cold call requires too much due diligence. If you are looking for a job, work your professional network - people you actually know.
The Treadmill of Life - My first priority is family and friends. Then I run my Executive Recruiting business. Finally, I give back by donating my time to charity. If you are busy like me (and you are!), you prioritize your time, and can't take on the requests of all the people cold calling you on LinkedIn. This is why I won't connect to people I don't know. About 95% of the time they have an agenda. We call it the "oh, by the way" connection. You get a long winded email that ends with, "Oh, by the way, can you introduce me to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett?" Focus is a key attribute of successful executives, so they need to focus on their business. No disrespect intended.
You MUST add Value - This is REALLY important. Successful executives are looking for relationships, not transactions. Top executives have hectic schedules and deal with tons of white noise. You need to have a strong value proposition if you want to get noticed. My motto is, "If there is a strong value proposition on both sides of the introduction, I'm happy to help." As an example, here is my personal value proposition. First, the obvious one - I get people jobs. That definitely comes in handy at some point. Second, I have a monthly newsletter that goes out to 5,000 executives. Who got hired, who got fired. Much of that information is not public knowledge, and there is great value to keeping up with the latest industry happenings. Third, I host quarterly mixers for my friends, clients and business partners. This is NOT a networking event, just a chance for my friends to meet each other. How much value is there to meeting 50 of the best executives, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists on the planet?
Some Do, Some Don't - Not everyone will want to be on your bus. Don't be offended. I have a saying, "Lord, send me $20 for every person that kicked dirt on me or treated me poorly, then sent me a resume when they got fired." There are several legitimate reasons that people won't get back to you. First, maybe they are facing a health crisis. Second, maybe they are having personal issues with their spouse or kids. Third, they may be in the middle of a work related crisis. Any of these situations can be a life encompassing, so don't be offended if you are not their top priority.