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Unpredictable benefits of LinkedIn

"Chance favors the prepared mind." - Louis Pasteur

Scott Allen is running a group blogging project on smart ways to use LinkedIn. I'm sure a lot of folks are going to write up the intelligent, organized ways that they've used LinkedIn for their careers and businesses. I'm a fan of all that, but I'm going to tell you about how sheer randomness can play a beneficial role, too. Let's talk about serendipity.

serendipity: discovering something by accident while investigating something quite different (Wiktionary)
One of the more interesting people I've met was looking for someone else at the time. This corporate PR exec—let's call him Bob, since that's not his name—was looking for Steven Gilliatt, a New York advertising heavyweight, and he tried LinkedIn. It turns out that Mr. Gilliatt isn't in LinkedIn, but I am. A few key phrases in my profile related to Bob's current interests, so he followed the link to my blog and read a bit.

Then he sent me a LinkedIn connection request.

Now, I'm not an open networker. I like to have at least a little contact with someone before accepting a link. But considering the VP title and big-name employer, I decided to accept this one, and once we were connected, the obvious next step was to talk.

What I found was a well-informed, well-connected contact with significant areas of professional interest in common. He told me stories about companies and Wikipedia, and he's given me client-side feedback on my big research project. We've had several good conversations since then, too. Obviously, I'm glad I added Bob to my network.

Let's recap the pieces that led to this happy connection:

  1. I'm in LinkedIn. If you want to be discovered, put yourself where people are looking.

  2. My profile describes my interests and activities, so someone who happens across it will have some idea of whether they're interested in what I do. A good profile will help you appear in keyword searches, too.

  3. My LinkedIn profile links to my business blog for more insight into what I'm about professionally.

  4. My use of social media is consistent with the image I want to project. My blogs, comments, profiles and tags don't paint a confusing picture for someone who finds me by unusual methods.

  5. Although I don't generally connect to people I don't know, I considered the potential and accepted Bob's connection.
Plans are great, but chance can be your friend if you're properly prepared.

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Comments (3)

Hey Nathan, you won a prize I offered recently in the smart ways to use LinkedIn at http://www.linkedintelligence.com/smart-ways-to-use-linkedin-prize-winners/ - if you'd like to make contact I can organise the prize for you.

Some good common sense suggestions here.

David Hughes

I believe that the true value of a LinkedIn account is the level 2 list of connections. I have downloaded and browsed my whole LinkedIn level 2 network (35 000+ contacts) and I am browsing the new contacts every other week, it gives me new leads all the time, very easy to contact. Took me some time the first time I got it all but now it takes me very little time to spot interesting leads in the updates (I am looking for very specific type of companies). The most interesting part is that my direct connections are working for me for free; each time they connect to new people, these people end up in my database and I just have to look at them to spot my sales lead.


It's not a feature of LinkedIn, you have to use a third party service. There are several companies out there that provide this service. I am currently using Smart Bees (http://www.smartbees.biz), they have been very helpful so far.

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