A retrospective of being 4 years on LinkedIn.
Finally. The number 1000 pops up under my connection tab and I lean back, breath out and grin. One year after I did get my 500+ on LinkedIn I doubled the people I am linked in professionally - pun intended. Looking back I have never thought I'll get here or it would mean anything to me. But the truth is: It does. I worked for 4 years to come to this point and I am thankful for the journey.
I just graduated with a Bachelor in media computer science when attending my first FMX convention. If you don't know what the FMX is it is a convention for Visual Effects and Animation where you have screenings, listen to breakdowns of movies and software, visit panels and also connect with people working in the same industry as you are.
At that time I wouldn't have called myself as part of the industry. I just finishend working on my first animation feature film (The 7th Dwarf) which wasn't much of a success and apparently didn't end up very good. Still I was proud to get the chance working on that film and being called Technical Director for the first time.
So I ended up on this convention surrounded by Star Wars and Pacific Rim, Disney and Pixar, Framestore and MPC talking about the amazing work they did. And in between me with my first shitty reel. My showreel had just one feature animation film in it with only trailer footage since my shots weren't out yet. "Trailer Footage close to mine" was the tag line on the video hoping that people will be okay with the fact that I am not even showing my actual work. Looking back - it was a mess.
Somehow I ended up in the recruiting area with an iPad that I borrowed to show my partly borrowed trailer footage. Should you never have been on any recruiting events in your life this is the typical summary:
"Good ... awesome ... cool ... impressive. Great Reel! Fill out the online form."
followed by some explanations what the company normally does and what they currently searching for. Sometimes you get a "we search more for a specialist" sometimes you get a "we search more for a generalist". That's mostly it. Exceptions confirm the rule.
Somehow I ended up at the MPC booth. At that time my knowledge about the industry was neglectable. I knew who MPC was but yeah ... so I went to one of the recruiter and showed him my reel. Then something happened which after 4 years will still stick in my head and bring me to this moment where I lean back, breath out, grin and celebrate my 1000s connection.
The MPC recruiter asked me:
"Do you have LinkedIn?"
Again I knew what LinkedIn was - basically business Facebook - but neither had I an account nor was I thinking about registering. I simply didn't know what to do with it and I didn't know that many people to add. So I replied with "No, I don't!" The recruiter smiled and waved with his hand showing the whole room with the dozens of recruiting booths where people standing in line armed with iPads or Laptops to show their passion and work. Ending up with an "Awesome!" and a hint to "register online for the position".
"You go from one booth to the next, collect every card from every recruiter and later register on LinkedIn and add them one by one to your profile."
I am not sure what happened at that moment but something clicked and I did as I was told. Running around, talking to all the recruiters in the room, collecting cards, asking them if they are on LinkedIn (of course they were). It was also the day when I sat down at home and decided:
"I want to have over 500 connections."
Why 500? Because after 500 connections LinkedIn just shows every visitor of your page a 500+ and indicates "You have made it, sports!" And I wanted to win them - the 500 - like points in a game fair and square. But I knew this game needed some basic rules.
Rule Nr. 1: Just add people you personally met
The first thing I did was searching for all the people I worked with and met in the last years working in the industry. Starting with the ones I studied with and ended up with the ones I worked with - which weren't that many.
After that I made it a habit to ask every professionally encounter what there names were or if they have a LinkedIn account. And then either add them on the spot or write their names down since I couldn't remember multiple first and last names immediately.
Rule Nr. 2: Add all Recruiters
Recruiters are in constant search. It is literally their job to be connected with as many people as possible to have a bigger pool of applications if they have to fill a open position. Of course it works the other way around. Having all the recruiters added to your profile gives you the opportunity to write them should you want to apply or have already applied and want to ask on the current status of your application. Also staying in regular contact is a plus.
Rule Nr. 3: Accept just valid people in your field
Everyone experienced connection attempts from people who are just adding.
The collector as I call them: "Hey, I sell lawn mower. Wanna connect?!"
No, thank you! This people are not part of your environment and will not make your profile stronger but weaker - so ignore them. If I don't see media, visual effects, animation or games in your profile it's an immediate "ignore" since this are my professional friends and I don't want strangers in my inner circle as I don't want unknown people pretending to be my friends on Facebook.
When I started to follow this probably forgettable advice I didn't thought much of the benefits or such. For me it was like collecting Pokemon cards. I was happy about every new connection but didn't push myself to invest active time in it. You just saw me walking around and hear me ask: "What is your last name?" which led to some confusion since it's not a typical question holding a drink.
When I reached the 500+ mark 3 years later it was just a short pet on the should and inner "Wuhu!" and life continued - that's how most longtime achievements feel like. One year later and 4 years after the advice we are arriving today and at the 1000+ mark. I am happy that I did it and took this advice to heart. Being connected lead to at least 2 jobs, multiple opportunities, staying in contact with some great people and being in the minds of some who would never have heard or already forgotten about me and what I do.
Thank you to everyone linking in with me and staying in contact - I mean it!
It would be great to know the name of the man who told me this great advice. I think I have his card - somewhere. Maybe someday I meet him while telling him the story. Maybe he reads this article. Anyway: Thanks for giving me the impulse to connect and grow. I owe you a beer!
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