Businessman Networking photo from ShutterstockAre you “on LinkedIn”, but not feeling like you are getting maximum benefit? In this fourth and final post in my series on leveraging LinkedIn for your career, we will examine one of the website’s most valuable uses — as a networking tool.

In an earlier post, we discussed LinkedIn visibility, credibility, and connect-ability. I coined the term “connect-ability” to emphasize the importance of connecting, communicating, and engaging with existing and new contacts on LinkedIn. Connect-ability is the key factor you need to understand and leverage to maximize your proactive networking.

If you are directly connected to someone, then reaching out to them is simple. Send them an InMail or, if they have their contact info shown, you can email or call them. But what about the millions of other people you might want to engage? Engaging your pick of these millions is the true power of the system. Here are four examples of helping clients or friends connect to new second level contacts which are, aside from direct connections, the easiest way for them to expand their connect-ability:

1. A client does a search and discovers that I have a first level connection they want to engage, such as in an employer of interest to them. If I know the person well, I reach out to them (a) via an InMail message, (b) via an email outside the LinkedIn site, or (c) via a phone call. If I don’t know the person or don’t know them well, I ask the client if they want me to take a shot at making the introduction and proceed accordingly.
2. A friend identifies a recruiter they would like to know who is a first level connection of mine. As in #1, I proceed in one of the ways previously discussed.
3. A client asks if I have a contact at a certain company (such as Home Depot) because they want to network into the company or research them. I navigate to the LinkedIn advanced search page, run a search, and select any possible contacts that might be useful. I share the list with my client and proceed onward from there… as in #1.
4. A friend asks if I have a contact with a certain title (such as Financial Analyst) because they want to network with such people or they want to conduct an informational interview. As in #3, I locate such contacts and proceed onward.

In these examples, I am reaching out to make networking introductions for clients or friends. Just reverse these and you can see how I could request such introductions of any of my 9000+ first level contacts who are connected to millions of next (2nd) level contacts. You can do the same.

But what if you want to grow your network rapidly, not one by one? The safest approach is by importing your contacts from Outlook or another source, editing the list if necessary, and then inviting them via the LinkedIn mechanized process for mass email invitations. This process, plus reaching out to people that are second, third, or higher level contacts, is beyond the scope of this short blog. Check out LinkedIn’s Help Center for info on importing your contacts.

I encourage you to try your hand at a few of these actions and, by paying attention to others who have more experience on LinkedIn, you will learn how to effectively engage others and become a better LinkedIn networker. Good luck and best wishes!