The Simple Question That Helps You Use LinkedIn Better

LinkedIn can accelerate your career–if you understand this key to the site.

The Simple Question That Helps You Use LinkedIn Better

For its founder Reid Hoffman, launching LinkedIn ten years ago was like jumping off a cliff and building an airplane on the way down–but what vehicle hath he wrought upon the working world?


Writing at HBR, social media ninja/author Alexandra Samuel observes that LinkedIn–and those with whom you are linking–are a quizzical bunch. They aren’t the public-facing chatterers of Twitter or the friend-comparing engine of Facebook or the fun-envy-inducers of Instagram, but rather a tentacled rolodex, a kraken of a network that is unquestionably powerful, should you learn to harness it.

But how to harness the LinkedIn kraken?

What this careerist octopus does best, Samuel says, is work as an introduction machine, “an address book in which all the entries can see and connect with another, to create a mini-network with you and the things you share at the hub.”

Should you become a LinkedIn Jedi, you will also become a superconnector–a person with the privileged position of network centrality–and be able to master the art of the tele-introduction.

However, Samuel notes, you can only attain this krakenly mastery should you be discerning in who you connect with. Her litmus is thus, she writes:

The favor test is simple: Would you do a favor for this person, or ask a favor of them? If so, make the connection. If not, take a pass.

What kind of people pass the test? Those who’d you’d help out at least a book–review their book, attend their conference, support their charity–even if you would just love to move them across town.

This, Samuel, says, is a marker that the LinkedIn thing is a nonsleazy two-way street–the favor test helps you articulate the quality of the working relationship you have with a person. Would you do an act of professional kindness for them, would you help jumpstart their career?

Should I Accept that LinkedIn Invitation?


[Image: Flickr user Michael Bentley]

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.