November 19, 2010
With more than 22,000 members, Linked:Seattle is a force in networking
When you invite 22,000-plus group members to a meetup, a few are bound to show.
“I was actually very surprised at how many people came to our first event,” says Michael Surkan, manager of the Linked:Seattle group on the social-networking website LinkedIn. He figured people had had their fill of local networking events. “I didn’t think we would have had the 300-plus people who came out to that first one.”
That meetup, held in August at O’Asian Kitchen, gave Surkan a hint of things to come and reinforced what he already knew: There is power in LinkedIn groups. More than 700 members gathered at Seattle’s King Cat Theater in October, and more than 350 attended this month’s event at the Tea Palace in Renton.
Michael Surkan, manager of Linked:Seattle, offers these tips for making a LinkedIn group more useful:
Get involved. Start a subgroup or a discussion, post comments on a topic or become a group manager. (Linked:Seattle has 16 subgroups.) “If you start a lot of great discussions, people will notice you,” he says.
Connect. “Find people [in the group] you want to connect with and e-mail them,” he says. “Ask if you can interview them for blogs or podcasts.”
Research. “Our RSVP list is public,” he says. Find people from the list who interest you and arrange to connect with them at the meetup. “If you go with three or four names of people who you’ve already reached out to contact, I think you’re going to get way more out of these things than if you just go cold.”
Recently unemployed and new to Linked:Seattle, Michael Gosner was glad that he attended the King Cat meetup. “It got me out of the house, because I had been living in front of my computer [job hunting] for basically three weeks at that point,” he says. Through LinkedIn, he has maintained the connections he made that night.
Gosner has plenty of company on Linked:Seattle, the second-largest local group on LinkedIn, following only Chicago. Olivier Taupin, of Enumclaw, started Linked:Seattle in 2007, largely to connect with people locally after he had been unable to work for two years following a car accident.
Taupin now makes his living recruiting members and building LinkedIn groups, including the website’s largest, Linked:HR. “The idea [of Linked:HR] was if I help recruiters, they’re going to help me back,” he says.
Hard times also led Surkan to LinkedIn groups. He lost his job at Microsoft in 2009. “I didn’t have a lot of connections outside of Microsoft,” he says, so he joined Linked:Seattle. He continued to expand his network, which led to a full-time job as a marketing director at a startup.
For years, Surkan had created podcasts as a hobby, posting interviews of people he found interesting. Taupin was one of those people; the two clicked, and Taupin invited Surkan to manage Linked:Seattle this year. Surkan moderates and starts discussions, deletes spam and organizes meetups.
For Surkan, managing the group is one more way to reach out. “My personal goal is to make new connections,” he says.
Eastside Networking Event: 6-9 p.m. Dec. 1, Rock Bottom Brewery, 550 106th Ave. N.E., Bellevue. eastsidenetworkingevent.com
Linked:Seattle meetup: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Dec. 15, Pacific Lutheran University, School of Business, 12180 Park Ave. S., Tacoma. http://bit.ly/LinkedSeattle
Linked:Seattle meetup: 5:30 p.m. Jan. 20, King Cat Theater, 2130 Sixth Ave., Seattle. http://bit.ly/LinkedSeattle
That desire to connect led Andrew Vest to create the LinkedIn group Eastside Networking Event last year and organize monthly meetups.
“I just really wanted to get out and reintroduce myself,” he says. “All the networking events were in Seattle. Frankly, they weren’t quite a fit for what I was actually looking for.
So I figured rather than complain about it, [I’d] create my own.”
Any job seeker can find his or her niche on LinkedIn by joining and becoming active in groups.
“Every member can truly influence the group by simply participating,” says Taupin. Linked:Seattle “is not my group, it’s your group. You just have to get involved.”
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