Why I decided to stop being an “Open Networker”
When I started my sourcing career I spent my very first day on the job signing up to LinkedIn. After a brief introduction on the product and how it worked, my window to “networking” was open and I was determined to make my mark. With the helping hand of my manager, I spent the rest of the day joining relevant open networking groups and communities both within LinkedIn and without and generally optimising my profile. Fast-forward to the present day and if I were to do it all again starting from scratch I would have built my LinkedIn profile completely differently…
The Basics of LinkedIn – A quick overview
The vast majority of recruiters and sourcers use LinkedIn to help identify passive candidates. These days that is almost all that LinkedIn is used for. Unless you are an in-house recruitment function and have purchased a LinkedIn Recruiter licence, you are going to be stuck with various degrees of limited visibility on your third degree of connections. The degree of visibility depends on the licence you carry.
How it works:
LinkedIn works on connections – first, second and third degree connections. The higher your first degree connections, the larger your network reaches. Think ‘six degrees of separation’.
First degree connections
These are your direct connections. People who have accepted your invitation to connect and those who’s invitation you have accepted.
Second degree connections
First degree connections of your first degree connections that you are not directly connected to. The next layer up in your network.
Third degree connections
First degree connections of your second degree connections that you are not directly connected to and is not a first degree connection of your first degree connections. The furthest layer of your network’s sphere of influence…
What is Open Networking:
Have you ever come across a LinkedIn profile that has (LION) or (Open Networker) or worse yet, the self aggrandising (3000+/6500+/10000+) connections after their name like it’s some sort of exclusive club or denotation of higher achievement? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against displaying a level of competency from a professional organisation (e.g. CPA, CPENG, CCIE, etc) because let’s face it, you earned it! But joining a free and open to public group and spamming people’s emails with invitations to connect hardly adds up to any achievement on any level.
LIONS (LinkedIn Open Networks), LIONS500 (LIONS with 500+ connections), TopLinkedIn, etc etc. What were once the doorway to heaven are now the bane of my LinkedIn inbox.
So with all this hoo-ha about Open Networking, let’s explore why one would get into it at all…
When you’re first starting out and you want to get access to the 225 million members on LinkedIn’s database, the easiest way is to maximise your first level connections. The more people you’re directly connected to, the more second and third level connections you have and so it is that you jump on the open networking groups and network until your heart is content using this pseudo network ponzi scheme. The reason behind it or at least it was for me, is that if you seed your connections with open networkers, they will actively go out and connect with others hence increasing their first level connections and your second and third level connections. Hence you do minimal work but maximise your gains as the network grows beneath and around you.
The problem with this is not so much of a financial loss but rather a dilution of your personal brand. People have access to who you connect on LinkedIn through their news feeds. They know who you’re connecting with, in what areas and how often. Say you’re a customer and you want to use a recruiter on a retainer to help you hire a sales engineer. You notice two recruiters working in this space, Recruiter A has over 7000+ connections and actively advertises it and Recruiter B only has around 400. You know the basics of LinkedIn and think great, what an excellent network Recruiter A must have, surely they’ll be able to find me a great candidate lickety split. Then you compare the activity on their profile and you start to notice that a lot of Recruiter A’s recent connections have been from people all over the world working in all different types of industries. Recruiter B on the other hand has a history of connecting with relevant people in your industry, in your location and from your competitors. The decision on who to work with is a no brainer.
How I would do it:
The reason why I decided to start my account as an Open Networker was because I was hired as a generalist sourcer. It made sense that I maximise my access to the LinkedIn database across the board because, well, you never know… If I were to do it all over again starting from now, I would start small, limit my connections to people in my industry and ideally only focus on those that I’ve actually had interactions with. I’d work towards being known as a subject matter expert in a particular vertical or specialised skill set and cover that market like I’m Scrooge McDuck looking for my lost dollar.
That is of course ideal but in reality I know that sometimes you don’t get a choice on what areas you’re focusing on and you have to just work with what you’ve got. I have no qualms about being an open networker so long as it’s targeted and relevant. With the hoardes of recruiters trying to make their mark and differentiate themselves from the rest, nothing stands out more than being known as a subject matter expert in that space and everyone in that industry that has worked with you have had good dealings or have heard of your good work.
What are your thoughts on Open Networking? Spammers or clever marketers? Share your thoughts below.
-Sourcing Ninja (2800+)