On LinkedIn profiles, you may see connections listed as 1st, 2nd, or 3rd beside someone’s name. This refers to the degree of connection between you and that person on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn shows your connections in terms of 1st, 2nd and 3rd to indicate how closely you are connected to them. Understanding these connection levels can help you better leverage your network on LinkedIn.
A 1st connection on LinkedIn is someone you are directly connected to. This means you have either accepted their connection request, or they have accepted your request. Your 1st level connections are people you likely know personally or have interacted with professionally.
Having 1st level connections on LinkedIn allows you to directly message that person, see their contact details, get introduced through mutual connections, and easily keep up with their profile updates and activity. It gives you a direct channel to engage with them.
As a general rule, you should only connect with people you know and trust on this 1st level. Avoid blindly accepting connection requests on LinkedIn, as that can pollute your network with contacts you don’t actually have relationships with. Be selective about who you connect with at the 1st level.
Your 2nd level connections on LinkedIn are people who are connected to your 1st level connections. For example, if John is your 1st level connection, and Maya is connected to John, then Maya would be your 2nd level connection.
You can see the profiles and activity of your 2nd level connections, but you don’t have a direct connection with them. You can still message them through LinkedIn’s InMail feature, but they may be less likely to respond since there is no established relationship.
2nd level connections are useful for expanding your reach on LinkedIn. You can ask 1st connections for introductions to your 2nd level connections. This allows you to strategically grow your network by working from shared contacts.
A 3rd connection on LinkedIn refers to someone who is connected to one of your 2nd level connections. So if Kevin is connected to Maya, who is in turn connected to John (your 1st connection), then Kevin would be your 3rd level connection.
With 3rd level connections, you can still view their profiles, but you don’t have a direct channel to communicate or engage with them. Requesting an introduction through multiple intermediaries may be needed to interact with a 3rd level connection.
Think of 3rd level connections as the edge of your network on LinkedIn. Making use of these extended connections requires strategic networking and introductions to bring them into your 1st or 2nd level network over time.
Connection Levels and Privacy
LinkedIn’s connection levels also impact profile privacy. For example, your 1st level connections may see more of your profile activity and details than 2nd or 3rd level connections by default.
You can adjust this in your LinkedIn account settings. But in general, LinkedIn shares more with closer connections and less with extended connections to maintain privacy within your network.
Growing Your LinkedIn Network
Having more 1st level connections on LinkedIn can expand your professional network and opportunities. Here are some tips for growing your 1st level connections:
- Accept connection requests thoughtfully from people you have personally interacted with.
- Connect with colleagues, clients, vendors, alumni, and others you have a relationship with.
- Use LinkedIn’s “People You May Know” suggestions based on connections, education, experience, interests, and more.
- Connect with attendees after conferences, trade shows, or industry events.
- Engage with content from others, then connect with them.
- Join LinkedIn Groups related to your industry or interests to connect with other members.
To strategically grow your 2nd and 3rd level connections on LinkedIn:
- Ask your 1st level connections for introductions to their connections.
- Use LinkedIn’s advanced search to find 2nd and 3rd connections based on mutual contacts, location, industry, skills, and other filters.
- Connect with people you meet through your 1st level connections to turn them into 2nd level connections.
- Focus on quality over quantity – curate your 2nd and 3rd level network purposefully.
The number of 1st, 2nd and 3rd level connections you have on LinkedIn is displayed on your profile. But it’s the quality of those connections that matters most when leveraging your network professionally.
Connecting with Recruiters
For job seekers, connecting with recruiters and talent acquisition professionals on LinkedIn can be very helpful. But avoid spam connecting with recruiters you don’t know at the 1st level.
Instead, focus on connecting with recruiters who you’ve actually interacted with, such as at a job fair, networking event, through an application process, or via shared connections. Connecting organically like this builds rapport.
You can also join LinkedIn Groups for recruiters in your industry as a venue to make authentic connections at the 1st or 2nd level over time. Commenting on recruiter posts can start an organic engagement that may lead to connecting.
Finally, follow company pages of employers you’re interested in to stay updated on new job postings. Oftentimes recruiters review followers and their profiles as part of recruitment efforts.
Maximizing Your LinkedIn Connections
To get the most out of your LinkedIn connections at any level, be sure to:
- Personalize connection requests with a note.
- View profiles of new connections and share what you have in common in your message.
- Provide recommendations for your 1st level connections when appropriate.
- Congratulate connections on work anniversaries, new jobs, promotions, etc.
- Comment on and like your connections’ posted content.
- Share connections’ content when it may benefit others in your network.
- Keep your profile up-to-date so your connections have your latest information.
Making meaningful connections and engaging thoughtfully will help strengthen the value of your LinkedIn network at any level. The quality and level of engagement with your connections matters more than just the number of connections.
1st level connections are people you are directly connected to on LinkedIn. 2nd level connections are people connected to your 1st level connections. 3rd level connections are those connected to your 2nd level connections.
LinkedIn limits profile visibility and access based on connection closeness to maintain privacy. Focus on making authentic connections at each level, and leverage your connections strategically.
Growing your 1st level network thoughtfully while curating a purposeful 2nd and 3rd level network provides expanded professional opportunities. Make the most of your connections through engagement.