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LinkedIn is the new Rolodex

Today, the quality and breadth of your professional connections impact your viability as a job candidate. It is no longer enough to be found on LinkedIn. Companies are beginning to filter potential hires on the basis of their LinkedIn connections. When all else is equal, it makes sense to select the most well-connected individual. After all, those relationships can provide access to key decision-makers, heighten the company’s visibility and ultimately shorten the sales cycle.

LinkedIn is the new Rolodex.

That is great news for those of you who have created a professional presence on and enhanced your network through LinkedIn. It is not so good for those of you who are hanging back hoping this whole online social media thing is just a bad dream that will end soon.

One of my clients has carefully cultivated only top-level executives for inclusion in his LinkedIn network.  He has done this slowly over a period of years by creating personal relationships with key business leaders. His network is a virtual who’s who in his industry. Were he to leave his current company he would bring a valuable resource to his new employer; one that easily translates into dollars. While the smart companies have always understood the value of a robust Rolodex, today’s trendsetters understand that your Rolodex is now online.

Another client, new to LinkedIn, quickly came to appreciate its potential. She spends the first 10 minutes of her work day checking her home page for industry news, then sends invitations to connect to 10 of her colleagues, customers and brokers. In less than six weeks she has built her online network to an impressive 170-plus connections. Is the attention she pays to her network a benefit to her company? Absolutely! She, more than any of her non LinkedIn literate colleagues, has her finger on the pulse of their industry.  

For those of you who are reluctant to embrace the idea of building an online network, let me mention that the shift has already happened. It is just a matter of how long you plan to wait before taking your Rolodex into the current century.

Things change. You may remember when it was common practice as a first step toward employment to be invited to an in-person interview with a human resources manager. This practice has given way to telephone screening interviews, and more recently to Skype interviews. Many of my clients initially railed at this change, ranting about how rude and impersonal it was. Today, it is the norm and no one thinks anything of it.  So it is with LinkedIn.  You can continue to avoid building an online network but the truth is that if a recruiter can’t find you on LinkedIn you are pretty much out of the game.

On the plus side, for the majority of job seekers it has always been about whom you know and that has not changed. What is different are the myriad ways you meet and keep in touch with your network. LinkedIn is simply a new career tool. Try it; it can be the high-tech, high-touch solution you have been looking for.