LinkedIn connecting people, jobs
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LinkedIn connecting people, jobs Sunday, August 19, 2007 3:51 AM BY MICHAEL JANAIRO ALBANY TIMES UNION Kim Lloyd wasn't looking to change jobs. The MapInfo marketing manager from Latham, N.Y., got an e-mail last year saying a friend wanted to introduce her to someone who was starting a company. The introduction didn't involve lunch or coffee or any face-to-face meeting. All she had to do was click on her LinkedIn account. Her home page on the professional networking Web site, which people can join free at www.linkedin.com, included the introduction and a link to the profile of Bill Phelan, a co-founder of the Troy, N.Y., software licensing and distribution firm Flatburger Inc. His profile, like most user-created profiles on LinkedIn, listed his current and past jobs, education, interests and recommendations, which are written by other LinkedIn users. After reading the profile, Lloyd sent Phelan her contact information. Two weeks later, the formal interviewing process began. And in January she became Flatburger's eighth employee -- the vice president of marketing. "I felt comfortable giving my contact information because I could see who he was, the companies he was at, and that he was a friend of my friend," the 39-year-old said. "I could see that it was a credible opportunity." And LinkedIn made it easy, she said. "I don't know if it really would've happened without this passive way of my friend making the introduction." Nearly 12 million people worldwide are using LinkedIn, said Jane Corrigan, a public-relations representative for the Mountain View, Calif., company. The site helps people connect if they are looking for work or employees, conducting research or trying to catch up with distant college friends or former colleagues. A new feature lets users ask or answer questions of other users. And LinkedIn is growing. "We are adding about 700,000 new members each month, and traffic to our site is up more than 300 percent over the past year," Corrigan said. LinkedIn, of course, isn't the only way people connect online. But unlike social-networking sites such as MySpace (with 189 million users) and Facebook (with 30 million users) that often feature music, videos and flashy backgrounds, LinkedIn just lists information and ways to search through it. And it's larger than other professional networking sites: Ecademy.com in London lists 150,000 worldwide users on its Web site; and Xing.com in Hamburg, Germany, numbers its worldwide users at 2 million. The way LinkedIn users build their networks is through three degrees: their personal "Connections," "Friends of friends" and "Their friends." "It's like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon," said Megan O'Toole, manager of membership services for the New York State Bar Association in Albany. The 46-year-old Delmar, N.Y., resident's network includes 71 connections, 1,500-plus friends of friends and 194,000-plus friends of friends of friends. Although she has been building her network for about three years, she is only now planning on using LinkedIn to hire vendors for creative services. "This is really an excellent tool for that," she said. "Instead of me having to think about who to reach out to, I have everybody out there in front of me; not only everyone I know, but everyone they know, too." "LinkedIn has gotten us contacts that we otherwise wouldn't have had," said Mark Shipley, president of Smith & Jones, an advertising agency in Troy, N.Y. Shipley, 47, has been using LinkedIn for 18 months, already has 55 connections and said he uses LinkedIn to find researchers, business partners, introductions or background information and new business. Many job postings on LinkedIn are in such fields as marketing, information technology and sales, but that could change as more people sign up. Or, it might not. After all, PrometeoNetwork.com, with a modest membership of 4,000, is a free networking service only for doctors and researchers in life sciences. "I think LinkedIn is a great concept," said Smith & Jones' Shipley, "but it is only as good as the people who use it. I have invited many of my personal contacts to join my network, and many have. But many have also chosen not to be on LinkedIn." As for Lloyd of Flatburger, when asked why she switched jobs when she wasn't even looking to change, she said, "I was thinking that it would be nice to get involved with a startup, because I had been with MapInfo for a while and I always wanted to start my own business. And this is the closest I can get without taking all the risk."