I’ll be honest, I’m probably late to this particular party. Not just fashionably late, but got a flat tire on the way there and had to go home to change late. I’ve been hearing people tell me about LinkedIn being this great tool for a couple of years now and frankly, I wasn’t buying it. This is probably because job seeking was all I ever used it for (quite unsuccessfully I might add).

So as the chatter grew, I brushed it off like another passing fad that would soon go the way of MySpace unless you were looking for work. However, 2020 has forced me to not just take another look at LinkedIn, but to actually become a fan.

Even before this pandemic, getting access to companies was becoming more and more difficult. This isn’t 1990, you can’t just walk in the door at places and end up talking with decision makers. We’ve got layers of gatekeepers that keep the walk-ins away from the people who are busy trying to run their companies, and that is certainly understandable. We all like working with people we know and trust, but how do you get to know people when you can’t introduce yourself?

Normally, I’d say join a Chamber of Commerce, a Main Street organization, or a networking group, and you should still do that. However, because of the pandemic most of those in-person networking events have been limited or cancelled all together. The ones that move online are good, but seem to be more of a personal pitch rather than real networking because you have so many people in the virtual room and you can’t all talk at the same time. So how do you find and connect to new people?

Yes, this is where LinkedIn comes in. LinkedIn has been a great tool for research. In fact, I probably need to go back and apologize for complaining about my college English professors that would make me cite sources and document how I came to find the source because this process can be very similar. However, instead of hours in the library going through the card catalog (for you millennials this is how we used to find things before computers), we’ve moved our research online.

When we are reaching out, we usually have a company in mind. From there, LinkedIn provides a window to who works for the company and their title. Now we’ve got something we can work with. You can see who you’re already connected to, or who you might have a shared connection with – someone who may be able to make an introduction for you.

Once you’ve decided who you want to contact, you can even connect through LinkedIn or send them a message. It’s the 2020 version of a networking event, and if you take the time to do the work, it can be very successful – even if you are a previous skeptic like myself.

It’s not as sinister and private-detective-like as it might sound. In reality, it’s a great resource to find people that you share interests or shared goals with, or if you want to just connect with potential clients. So if you are like me, I encourage you to give LinkedIn another look and see how well it may work for you. In fact, I’ll be your first networking connection! Just make sure you send me a note to let me know how you found me so that I accept your invite. Good luck, and happy networking!