Third-Degree LinkedIn Connections Matter for Your Executive Job Search
How many first-degree connections do you have on LinkedIn? 40? 100? 500? 10,000? That number is indicative of the number of people you have influenced to join your inner circle. But it’s not indicative of the power of your influence overall on LinkedIn. The most powerful number on LinkedIn is your total third-degree LinkedIn connections.
What Are Third-Degree LinkedIn Connections
Before we talk about the value of these third-degree connections, let’s define what we mean. Imagine you’re standing in a circle that contains only you. Everyone with whom you’re connected directly is your first-degree connections. Now imagine one of those first-degree connections standing in his or her own circle; everyone to whom that person is connected (unless they are also your first-degree connections as well) is your second-degree connections.
Example: You are connected to Mary. Mary is connected to Joe, Tom, Jack, and Jane. Joe, Tom, Jack, and Jane are your second-degree connections (assuming they’re not also first-degree connections of yours to start).
Now imagine that Joe is standing in his own circle. He has first-degree connections, too. These individuals are your third-degree connections (unless they’re more closely connected to you in some other way).
Example: Tom, Jack, and Jane (your second-degree connections) also have pools of first-degree connections. This entire set of connections-of-your-connections’-connections comprises your third-degree connections.
What Happens to Your LinkedIn Connections When You Connect with Someone New
As the graphic illustrates, your inner circle is only as large as it is; of course, you can expand it via a number of techniques, and you definitely should do so as you progress through your executive job search. When you do add a first-degree connection, your second-degree circle expands, but your third-degree circle grows exponentially. Furthermore, when one of your second-degree connections adds a new member to his or her inner circle, your third-degree pool also grows. Consider that LinkedIn has 450 million global members in 2018, up from 364 million in just 5 years, with 106 million visiting the platform each month. Thus, the number of connections in your broadest circle is growing exponentially, even while you sleep, even when you are not active on the platform.
Why Third-Degree LinkedIn Connections Matter for Your Job Search
Third-degree connections matter on LinkedIn because no relationship activity valuable to you specifically happens outside of your network. In practical terms, this means that you can’t know about someone’s participation on the platform if you do not share some type of relationship (connections being only one flavor, but certainly the most powerful and reciprocal).
From a search standpoint, all search results on the platform are dictated by relationship status. When a hiring executive who is looking for someone like you conducts a search, for practical purposes, his or her results will include only those who are first-, second-, or third-degree connected. For you, this means that this hiring executive will not be able to find you unless you are part of that person’s extended network. You simply will not appear in the search results for that individual. You won’t be on that person’s radar, and if you’re not in the differential, you won’t be in the diagnosis–if you’re not in the pool of candidates, there is no way you can be chosen even for initial evaluation of candidacy.
How to Build Essential Third-Degree Connections
In many ways, the number of third-degree connections you have is largely out of your control. However, if the majority of LinkedIn users abide by roughly the same principles, every new connection that you make or someone else makes deepens and strengthens all levels of connections. To actively increase the number of third-degree connections you have, start by connecting with individuals whose brand is to be a hub on LinkedIn. These individuals are called LinkedIn Open Networkers, or LIONs. Search these LIONs out by region, industry, job function, or company, and connect with them; most do not reject connection requests.
Updated July 2018.