Expanding Your Network for Great Career Advantage with LinkedIn (Getting to 2nd & 3rd degree connections)

Posted by Alan J. McMillan on Wed, Sep 17, 2014 @ 10:00 AM

This is about leveraging your LinkedIn network but let me give you some real life context.  This will bring together your-brand, your-network and LinkedIn in order to give you career advantage.Final

According to Wikipedia:  Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal-branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging.

I don’t completely buy this.  Personal Branding is NOT about packaging, it is about YOU.  Who you are and what you bring to the table.  The ‘packaging’ and ‘social media amplification’ just extends who you really are.

Brands must be authentic and consistent.  So a reasonable question is, who is your most authentic and consistent self?

You are making a branding statement every day and it is your actions that are making the statement.

That brings us to LinkedIn.  Your personal network is one of your most powerful career assets.  Who you know, and whom they know.  Heretofore, who your contacts knew, by and large, was invisible to you.  LinkedIn it has made them visible.

From LinkedIn’s website, this is how it works:

  • 1st-degree - People you're directly connected to because you have accepted their invitation to connect, or they have accepted your invitation. You'll see a 1st degree icon next to their name in search results and on their profile. You can contact them by sending a message on LinkedIn.
  • 2nd-degree - People who are connected to your 1st-degree connections. You'll see a 2nd degree icon next to their name in search results and on their profile. You can send them an invitation by clicking Connect or contact them through an InMail or an introduction.
  • 3rd-degree - People who are connected to your 2nd-degree connections. You'll see a 3rd degree icon next to their name in search results and on their profile.
So, your network is not just who you know, it is also who they know (both 2nd and 3rd degree connections).

Here is an example:  You are trying to secure a teaching assignment at a public school.  You apply, but you also use LinkedIn and discover:

  • Someone you know (1st degree).
  • Knows someone who works in that school district (2nd degree),
  • And that person knows the assistant superintendent (3rd degree) who has great influence on the hiring process.

To stand out from all others, and get on the top of the list for consideration, you want to call or email that assistant superintendent.  Smart move.

You have two paths:

  1. You can call or email cold, as all others can
  2. You can get your 1st degree connection to reach out to their 1st degree connection (your 2nd degree) to introduce you to the assistant superintendent

Option two is the best route, obviously.  But what does that take?  You have to be impressive to your 1st degree connection so they will make the initial introduction.  Then they need to ask that 2nd degree connection, who does not know you and has never met you, to either call or write the assistant superintendent.

Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn’s founder wrote:

Suppose you have 40 friends, and assume that each friend has 35 friends in turn, and each of those friends of friends has 45 unique friends of their own.  If you do the math:   40 x 35 x 45 that’s 54,000 people you can reach via an introduction.

Now you know why one of LinkedIn’s early marketing taglines was:  Your Network Is Bigger Than You Think.  It is!

Now for some common sense.  Just because these connections exist, you still have to inspire them to make those introductions for you.  And, they will only do it if you are impressive.  This is especially true when you get to 2nd and 3rd degree because they don’t know you at all.

But, if your first degree forwards an email from you, where he comments that they know you and you are the real deal, and from their prospective you would make an excellent teacher (and list why they feel like that, as in what they have seen you do) there is a higher likelihood that the next connection will reach out on your behalf. Then, by the time the assistant superintendent gets the message, they see an impressive linage that led you to them.

No one along that chain will do this for a slacker. They probably won’t do it for an average player and YOU WOULDN’T EITHER.  But, they will do it for an exceptional person.  That is why:

  • What you do consistently in your life is so important
  • What you accomplish is so powerful
  • How you handle setback is critical
  • How you keep in touch and serve you network matters

You are building your brand every week.  How can you positively enhance your brand THIS week?  Now do it.

Topics: Personal Brand, Personal Networking, Job Search, Linked-In, Alan McMillan, Network, Career Advantage, LinkedIn, 1st degree connections