counterBack in the day, when LinkedIn’s colors where baby blue, you could see the number of third-degree connections you had in an analytics report.

When I had 880 first-degree connections, I also had 11.5 million third-degree connections. Now that I have thousands of first-degree connections and LinkedIn’s user base has more than tripled, I can only guess that my third-degree list would now be in the high tens of millions.

That’s tens of millions of people available for me to contact and network with. Tens of millions of people willing and able to guide me, refer me, buy from me, talk to me, etc.

These numbers aren’t something to take lightly.

There’s an old adage in the world of professional networking: “It’s not your connections that matter; it’s your connections’ connections.”

Experienced networkers, like those who regularly attend BNI and other local networking meetings, know that referrals often happen from someone else’s friends. It’s not uncommon to hear, “Oh, I met someone the other day who you need to meet” in the halls of professional referral clubs.

So stop playing coy with your LinkedIn network. Oh, I don’t know this person, I’m not going to connect with them.

Naive!

 

It’s Called Social Networking for a Reason

It doesn’t matter if you know your new connection well or not, or if they might directly relate to your industry or immediate career direction.

What matters is who that new connection will make available to you in your second- and third-degree network — who they know, and who those people know. Heck, I’m second-degree connected to Michael Dell, which means I can InMail him any time I want! (Although chances are his admin will just delete my message, but still…)

Look, the name of this game is social networking, not “nice profile beauty contest.” Social media-savvy professionals move beyond profile tweaks and hacks and leverage their profile as a platform to grow their network, make connections and share their voice.

If you have fewer than 250 LinkedIn connections, then you simply don’t have the volume of second- or third-degree connections to make LinkedIn worthwhile. (Like this thought? Tweet it!)

This is the number I’ve found to be the tipping point. Once you crack that number, you’ll find you’re way more likely to be second-degree connected to those people you should be talking to — and, therefore, able to InMail them without knowing their email address.

 

Getting to 250

If you’re having trouble getting over this hump, here are some suggestions to help you grow your network fast:

  • Import your contacts list. Using the “add connections” feature on LinkedIn, connect your email provider. You’ll be able to see which of your contacts already has a LinkedIn profile by the blue LI icon next to their name. Invite those people to connect with you.
  • Find classmates. Visit LinkedIn’s alumni tool and browse for people you graduated with — provided they weren’t too drunk during college to remember you now.
  • Add colleagues. Using LinkedIn’s company search, look for places you used to work. Then start browsing for old coworkers to connect with.
  • LION up. Run a people search using the keyword “LION,” which stands for LinkedIn Open Networker. These are people who have promised to accept your connection request. They often have enormous networks (think: second-degree access).

How have you grown your LinkedIn network? Share your tips and strategies in the comments!

This post originally appeared on Career Enlightenment.

Image: Flickr