As a confirmed networking junkie, I am always looking for my next fix. My new fix is LinkedIn. An on-line social network, LinkedIn is often described as Facebook for professionals. While it may not be as much fun as that other social media platform, it is a powerful tool for serious business. With an emphasis on career history, educational background and association membership, LinkedIn has millions of members, with thousands more joining each day.

Start with Your Contacts

Once you register (basic membership is free) you can invite people to LinkedIn (connect to you through the online tool). You can search the LinkedIn data base for people you know or upload your email address book. You will only be able to view contact information for people with whom you are directly connected.  This is a wonderful way to reconnect with former coworkers, employers and customers.

Your Contacts Have Contacts

This is where the real power of LinkedIn comes in.While you may have only 100 people in your contact circle, each of those people know other people.  These same connections exist in the off line world. Your friends know people you want to meet, and sooner or later they may get around to introducing you.

With LinkedIn you can accelerate the process by requesting invitations. You can search by skills, type of company, jobs held, geographic regions, and common interests. If you find someone who fits your search criteria, LinkedIn will tell you how you are connected and who you know in common.  With this information you can request an invitation.

Something for Everyone

Whether you are looking for a job, an employee, an introduction to a key executive, or simply someone with the answer to a burning questions, LinkedIn can help you find people who will meet your need.  LinkedIn will never replace the face-to-face interaction, but it can give your traditional networking an extra buzz.