Like most professional people today I have hundreds LinkedIn connections. LinkedIn offers us tremendous opportunities to connect with people, almost instantly, from all over the world. It’s a thrill to press the “connect” button with someone who may have something in common with you; the possibilities are endless. The person might be another thought-leader in your field of expertise, a colleague from one of your European divisions or someone you worked with at one of your past careers.
While it’s interesting to read about a person’s background in order to determine if the connection should be pursued, one the best ways to build an even more meaningful relationship is to actually meet. I’m very fortunate to live in the New York Metropolitan Area and many people in my network are geographically close to my office or home. Whenever I connect with someone from my area, I reach out and invite them for breakfast, coffee or lunch. It’s been an extraordinary experience, with surprises along the way. Connections have turned into business opportunities and in several cases special friendships. One LinkedIn connection invited me to lunch so he could introduce me to one of his largest clients. Another asked me to speak at his company’s user conference. I have helped some of my new friends find summer internships for their kids, given career advice to them or their spouses. It’s a two-way street, the definition of building a relationship.
I also look up connections in whatever city I am travelling to on business. I plan my itinerary to accommodate whoever might be able to meet me either near or at my hotel. Always makes my trip even more rewarding.
When LinkedIn first started in 2003, I remember talking to a young person about how I have made great connections at cocktail and networking parties and couldn’t imagine how social media could replace a handshake, making eye contact and having a conversation. The younger gentleman told me I didn’t get it. Frankly, I did not. I could not comprehend the value of social networking at the time.
Now, I have come into my own and understand the enormous ramifications of social networking. But, I am also happy to be old school and get the benefit of blending the Internet with a handshake. It’s been an invigorating and exciting experience.
Search through your LinkedIn connections and meet those people, face-to-face whenever you can. You are connected because they are interested in you and you want to learn more about them. It’s a winning combination.