I am the Connection Director for LinkedIn. Toni Bowers asked for my advice on the best way to leverage LinkedIn in a career. Here are my thoughts:

Be the best in breed

So I just did a quick web search for “career experts” and found search results for 339,000,000. While not all of these are actual people, I can safely assume (as you should in the IT industry) that I am dispensable. And while this reality can be very scary, it can also be really motivating when you start to wrap your head around the strategies and technology available to help you make it to the top of your professional food chain.

There are two parts of the “expert” equation. The first is the acquisition of information (both from meaningful resources and experiences) and the second is its dissemination.  LinkedIn can help with both. Each and every day you need to make it your job to be as informed as possible. LinkedIn Today saves you time and energy by serving you the most current and crucial industry news. Whether it be in a meeting, around the water cooler or via a LinkedIn Group discussion, the more informed you are, the more likely you are to be bestowed with a legitimate expert ranking from both your peers and a Google search.  Because let’s face it…not all 339,000,000 of us will survive.

Expand your habitat

My first direct manager would roll into the office at 8:58 a.m., make his way to his corner office and shut the door, only to emerge again at 4:59 p.m. Curious, I did a little digging on his whereabouts before writing this blog. No bio on the company website. No LinkedIn Profile. And via a mutual connection, you guessed it, no job.  Presence has always been a good thing in terms of survival in the workplace, but as the economy has become increasingly competitive and technology more prevalent, not only is it critical not to hide in the face of survival…you need to be very, very easily found.

Find an activist

The Rolodex is dying because a network is infinitely more than a plastic contraption jammed with business cards. Your survival is based upon the relationships you form-and this isn’t a contest of popularity but of influence.  The number one question I’m asked when people learn I work with LinkedIn is, “Do I have to accept all the connection requests that are sent to me?”  The answer is: no. The second most frequently asked question I get is, “How did you get this job?”  The answer is: through a trusted connection. The point here is, regardless of how cute (thinking chimpanzees) and talented we are, we all need a Jane Goodall in our lives. Professional survival requires a community to support our growth, invest in our development, watch our backs, sing our praises and fight for us when we need it.