Five ways IT managers can get more out of LinkedIn

About a month ago, a freelance journalist and author posted a question on the social networking site LinkedIn, specifically in its “Answers” area where questions can be posed to members. Hers was simple: Are CIOs expected to predict business trends now?

She got nine answers in total, and you’ll need a LinkedIn profile of your own to read them, but only one came from an actual CIO. The others were CEOs, CTOs and vendors. This may not be surprising. Although I’m sure a number of CIOs and IT managers are using LinkedIn, I’m not sure many of them are using it very well. Last year Guy Kawasaki's post on LinkedIn instantly became the seminal tract on how to make the most of this tool, and in some respects I’m just a novice user myself. But I still think there are some other, specific ways this service could help technology professionals not only find a better job, but improve their performance in their current role.

Connect with your audience. Most LinkedIn users spend so much time trying to increase the number of outside people to whom they are only tenuously connected that they forget to connect with others in their own company. This immediately places your C.V. not merely before the eyes of potential employers but people who can get a sense of your background, your capabilities and your personal interests. All these can do a lot to build or cement relationships with departmental users.

Advertise your needs. The “what are you working on” feature is akin to the status updates on Facebooks, but for LinkedIn’s more professional audience the benefits could be greater. If you’re struggling through an upgrade to Windows Server 2008, make it known to your network. There might be colleagues who could offer assistance, trade war stories or make recommendations for service providers. Speaking of which . . .

Use your influence. LinkedIn users are encouraged to gather “recommendations” from co-workers or associates, but it’s equally important to recommend others. For IT managers in particular, a LinkedIn recommendation (either to a profile or to a service provider) could carry some weight, considering that vendors often have to pay them off with deep discounts on products to appear in their case study programs. The same goes for co-workers. If the person responsible for setting up and managing the company’s mission-critical infrastructure bestows a compliment via LinkedIn, they may be more likely to pay attention the next time they’re called upon for a project.

Become a go-between. IT managers tend to meet all kinds of vendors, consultants and experts. LinkedIn works by having others make introductions to useful contacts on your behalf. Imagine a day in which IT managers are not only seen as sociable, but the best people to connect you to the people you need to succeed?

Treat the network like a network. IT infrastructure only functions as well as all the parts that comprise it. The same holds true for your LinkedIn network. As you establish contacts, monitor them for new people they’re meeting, new projects they’ve started on, and contribute whenever and however you’re able. In compute terms we call this kind of thing “load balancing.” That’s what LinkedIn, and social networking in general, is all about.

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