Early in the history of LinkedIn, users could view the number of third-degree connections they had – it was available in an analytics report on the site. Now, though, only first-degree and second-degree connections are available.

Back when I had 880 first-degree connections, I also had 11.5 million third-degree connections. I can only guess what that number might be today, but it’s likely tens of millions of people that I can connect to and network with

In professional networking, it’s not so much your direct connections that matter – it’s your connections’ connections. I’ve heard researchers call this the “Weakest Link”. Terrible name. But their research indicates that it’s these weak links that provide the most value to our lives.

I’ve met LinkedIn users who refuse to accept invites from people they don’t know directly.

But don’t be naïve – when you’re asked to connect with someone you barely know or don’t know at all, they might have the connections you most need for your future development. It’s not who you know, it’s who they know.

So how much is enough?

The number I’ve found to be the key – the tipping point, if you will – is 250 connections. Until you acquire that many, you just don’t have the volume of second-degree connections to maximize the potential that LinkedIn offers you.

Here are a few tips to expanding your list of connections and maximizing the networking power of LinkedIn:

Use Evernote’s Hello app. Just download the application from Evernote, shoot photos of all the business cards you have hanging around, and then invite all those people to your network. If you have their cards, you’ve probably met them in person, so they’re likely to accept your invitation.

Import your contacts to LinkedIn. Use the “Add Connections” feature to connect to your email provider. You can view the list of your email contacts who already maintain LinkedIn profiles – just check for the blue LinkedIn icon next to their names. Send them invitations to connect with you on LinkedIn.

Hunt up your old classmates. You can use the LinkedIn alumni tool to search for people you went to school or graduated with. Send them invitations and add them to your network.

Build your list of colleagues. You can use the LinkedIn company search to filter through places where you worked in the past. Just browse those listings for former co-workers or colleagues to add to your list.

LION up. You can conduct a people search on LinkedIn using the keyword “LION.” These are LinkedIn Open Network people, who have agreed to accept connection requests. These people often maintain enormous networks of connections and can offer you a huge list of second-degree access.

For more tips and tricks on using LinkedIn to its full potential, check out my kindle guide, How Not to Suck at LinkedIn, now available on amazon.

Joshua Waldman, author of Job Searching with Social Media For Dummies, is recognized as one of the nation's top authorities in Social Media Career Advancement. To learn Joshua’s secret strategies for shortening the job search and getting the right job right away, Get The Missing Manual for LinkedIn Success

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