Being at the right place at the right time is often squarely tied to luck. While it’s true that you can’t be everywhere, it is also true that nurturing your professional relationships could help you hear the knock when opportunity comes calling. The little things done right there can help to foster career growth. We tend to sometimes use social media too casually. Tuned just right, it is a minimal effort tool for managing our relationships en masse.
Managing your contacts on LinkedIn is just one of the “hacks’ that could help you with advancing your career. If you are at the cusp of a career or at the cusp of changing over from the old to the new, LinkedIn could be your living resume. Beyond being a place to park your professional bio, it is a search engine to research your next job. A part of it will stem from the help you get from your contacts. For the sake of better relationship management, it’s time to work on the new LinkedIn’s Contacts.
The First Step: Syncing All Your Contacts in One Place
LinkedIn introduced the new Contacts feature this April. Hopefully, by now it has been rolled out to all profiles across the world. You can access it from Network – Contacts on the black navigation bar. Contact Settings allows you to sync information from your email accounts on Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, and also your iPhone address book (using the standalone LinkedIn Contacts app for iOS). Along with contact information, you can also sync your emails and calendar events (for instance, any meeting dates).
LinkedIn does not store entire messages, but only an index of the conversations you might have had with a particular contact. LinkedIn automatically updates everything once a day so if anything changes in any of these services, it is updated in LinkedIn as well. The highlight of this feature is that you can bring in contact details of people who may not be on LinkedIn.
You can import the contacts file separately from your online address books if you don’t want to use the sync option. It also supports data sources like Evernote, Google Voice, CardMunch and a few more. Don’t forget to export your LinkedIn connections data and keep a backup just in case. Note the export LinkedIn Connections feature in the screenshot above.
Send Congratulatory Messages Every Day
LinkedIn keeps tabs on all updates made to anyone professions; it could be a promotion, a new job, or a birthday. As soon as you hit the Contacts page, LinkedIn lets you know so that you can use it as an excuse to touch base with a congratulation. You can click on Your Day to see all the notifications and reminders you have set up.
Sort and Simplify Your Network
One of the human problems with social networks is that it takes a click to accept a new contact, but we don’t really pay attention to properly slotting them. If you haven’t paid attention to organizing the hundreds of your LinkedIn connections, it’s time to apply a bit of elbow grease and do it. It will pay dividends in the long run. As the screenshot shows, LinkedIn gives you several ways to sort through your connections. Some filters like Sources, Titles, and Company are applied by LinkedIn automatically.
The Hidden feature is useful to relegate all connections that are not immediately important to you. Using the Hidden feature is handy if you have to tame overwhelmingly large contact lists.
Tags are important organization cues you can customize to group your connections in different ways. You can apply more than one tag to a connection.
Locations helps you visualize your LinkedIn network. Surprisingly, I didn’t get the profile thumbs, and had to mouseover for the names.
You can also sort through your entire list and rearrange it according to the filters you see in the screenshot below. The Lost Touch filter is interesting and useful because it tells you at a glance the connections you need to pay attention to soon if you want to maintain them.
Jot Down Details for a Connection
It’s always advisable to curate your connection with all the information you have about them. This is an essential part of relationship management. At a glance, you can see the chain of InMail communication you had with a connection. Think of this as a timeline for your entire relationship history with a connection. LinkedIn allows you to add important details to each person’s profile and keep it organized like a Rolodesk. Click on a connection and fill in the details under Relationship. This information is visible only to you.
You can add a Note and add any details because this is visible only to you. Notes help to give a context to the relationship you share with someone.
To keep a follow-up schedule, you can add Reminders and set alerts so that you don’t have to remember them on your own. Reminders will also get added to the visual display of profile photos you see when you click on Your Day. Reminders re also useful for contacts with whom you haven’t spoken in a while.
With so many contacts to keep up with, it is difficult to remember how the first handshake happened and who was responsible for it. The information you add to the How you met field helps to jog your memory and gives you a cue for the next meeting.
You can also edit the contact info and fill up the fields as you see in the screenshot below. You can transfer all the information here and stash away the business cards.
LinkedIn Contacts is an intelligent LinkedIn relationship manager and a tracking tool in its own right. It is not a static address book anymore. The tools available should help you engage with your network more effectively. Have you given the LinkedIn Contacts features a second look? Give us your impressions in the comments and tell us how you use it to manage your professional associations?