Seeking new adventures? Get yourself some exposure

Published on July 21, 2017Life1,449 words

I’m currently typing the final words of this post on a flight to Shanghai. It’s my first time in China, I’m both excited and scared, I have no idea what’s waiting for me at arrival. This time last month I still had no idea I would fly there. How all of this happened? Here’s the story.

Whether you love your current path or wouldn’t mind a little change, it is always flattering to be offered to fly to new horizons. Unless you get yourself sufficient exposure, this is unlikely to happen. You don’t give new opportunities a chance to find you.

Gaining exposure can take many forms: attending meetups, publishing articles, working from stimulating cowork spaces, starting side projects, contributing to existing ones… These are all great options. But to me, the fastest and cheapest way to do so is LinkedIn. Yes, this good ol’ LinkedIn.

Once your profile is all set, you’re just a click away from all the big fishes you’ve always dreaded to meet. You can send a message to Richard Branson right from the comfort of your couch, wearing your favourite pyjama. What a time to be alive!

I first signed up on LinkedIn in 2011 and have never regretted it so far. I spend most of my social media time on it. I believe it’s the platform with the best ROI, where the investment is your time (a significant thing to invest), and the return is the number of opportunities you get out of it.

I am aware that most people find it annoying, intrusive or irrelevant. I also agree that it is not as good as it used to be. But still, it remains one of the most efficient ways to find and get found by new adventures. If used wisely.

What makes LinkedIn so great?

It’s like a huge networking event. LinkedIn is all about networking, people behave and expect you to behave accordingly. You can do things you wouldn’t do on Facebook, or any other social media. Interacting with people you don’t know is one of those things.

It’s fine to send out connection requests to strangers and strike conversations out of the blue. There’s no need to excuse yourself before saying what you have to say, go straight to the point.

It makes inaccessible people accessible. Most successful professionals are on LinkedIn, and they are all within reach. You can easily come across CEOs or VP-level executives, from any small-to-medium sized company.

You are also more likely to get answers from LinkedIn messages than emails to my experience. It is often less crowded than people’s mailbox. Thus, you can grab the person’s attention more easily and get the conversation started more casually. Just make sure you have something worth to say.

How I use LinkedIn

How I behave on LinkedIn is as I would behave at any given networking events. I like to see the platform as a never-ending worldwide online meetup.

My LinkedIn usage is fairly simple, the online me is just the real me. Some people’s online conduct has become so crazy these days that actually acting “normal” will make you stand out. How convenient!

When I get a connection request, I nearly always accept it. Then, I try to strike a conversation with my new friend. I thank them for their interest and, in return show interest in them. The point is to find out how both of us can possibly benefit from this discussion. If there’s nothing obvious for now, no big deal, I move on.

I also send connection requests to people I wish I could meet in real life, even if they are complete strangers. Especially if they are complete strangers. And I would encourage anyone to do so. Some of those strangers will accept your invitation and some may even start talking to you. Congratulations, you have just gained exposure!

I used to give conferences on how to make the most of LinkedIn, with a good friend of mine. That was 3 years ago, we were still students back then. We were trying to demonstrate to fellow students how the platform was a powerful tool to land a first job or an internship.

One of our main pieces of advice was to accept any connection request (with some discernment obviously), and deliberately connect with anyone they could think of. The purpose of it was just to gain exposure, a lot of exposure. I remember that some students wouldn’t understand the point of proactively connecting with strangers. They would find it weird or scary.

Don’t you think it’s intrusive?

If you were to ask them whether you could stay overnight on a Sunday evening, that would be intrusive. Sending a LinkedIn connection request is not. I’ve never been overwhelmed by LinkedIn invitations so far.

But what if the other person doesn’t accept?

They are either busy or not interested in connecting with you. No answer is an answer in itself. But if they do accept, you’ve done the hardest part. It’s like a Tinder match, it’s your call now.

But what if…

No, there’s is nothing wrong with trying to connect with people, if it’s done genuinely and respectfully. It’s like a compliment, you are telling them that you want to know them. And after all, it’s just a click, no one will get hurt in the process.

Unleash LinkedIn’s power

So who should you connect with on LinkedIn? How to choose your strangers? Here’s my only criteria. Pick someone who inspires you, someone you wish you could meet in real life, someone who has achieved something you regard as your goal.

Don’t limit yourself to your colleagues or friends’ friends, even if that’s good place to start. Think big, get in touch with CEOs, speakers, authors, astronauts, sailors, chess players, tiger trainers…

Surprisingly, inviting people on LinkedIn will get people to invite you on LinkedIn. So go introduce yourself to that stranger. Get the exposure rolling! After all, what’s the biggest risk? Not being accepted? Then, I think it’s worth taking the plunge.

You would also be surprised how easy it is to find common points with new connections, if only you start talking to them. Common points are a first step into affinity. Affinity may lead to mutual trust. Trust is perhaps the beginning of something big.

As most things, LinkedIn is as big as you want it to be. It’s up to anyone to harness its full potential. After all, opportunities are created by people, and LinkedIn is a great way to connect with people, hence opportunities. You never know who will end up on your profile and what they have in mind for you. Sometimes not much, sometimes an adventure on the other side of the world.

So what’s about China again?

Yes, right, I almost forgot… China! This whole thing still feels unreal to me. Here’s what happened.

About 2 months ago I started chatting with a new LinkedIn connection, as I usually do several times every week. After a few messages exchanged, we realised we attended the same coding bootcamp, in different cities. It led us to talk about what we had been doing after completing the course.

This is how he explained to me that he was currently in Shanghai, teaching code at Le Wagon. I was impressed! I went on by telling him how cool I think this was, and how I would love to do such a thing at some point.

At the end on the conversation he kindly offered to talk to the bootcamp’s manager about me. I accepted his initiative without seriously considering such an offer. Flying to China was not part of my short-term agenda. Or so I thought…

About two weeks went by until I received a message from the bootcamp’s manager. In substance it said: Hello Charly, I have been told to get in touch with you. Let me know when you want to talk about teaching in China.

Boy that escalated quickly! I was excited and honoured by this proposition, yet nervous to go forward with it. And this is precisely why I considered doing so. As they say, what doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you. After a Skype call and a few emails, I accepted the offer.

And now here I am, some thousands feet above the sea, flying along the Chinese coast as we’re starting our descent to Shanghai. And it all started with a casual LinkedIn ice-breaker: So what are you up to these days?

Obviously, LinkedIn alone did not get me to China, experience did. Yet, it was a fantastic enabler in that process.

I have to leave you now, I’m about to land. I need to switch my electronic devices, put my seat back and tray table in their upright position. My new adventure is about to start! Here is where yours could too, this is your call.

你好中国! 🇨🇳

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