Your LinkedIn Network and the Degrees of Connection

Have you ever heard of the concept “Six Degrees of Separation”? Proposed way back in 1929 by Frigyes Karinthy, the idea has popped up repeatedly in social and social media dialogues. People from the 90’s may recognise it from films; early 2000’s may see it as “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” and avid readers of LinkedIn Content may recall it from posts about networking on LinkedIn, the now-defunct InMaps or the 2014 tool inspired by it.

Six Degrees of Separation postulates that you are connected with everyone else in the world through a social chain of 6 or less people i.e. It can take me 6 invitations or less to directly connect with someone outside my network, unless I am a Premium Member.

It is a concept that you would want to believe and social media may have achieved it and even made it obsolete. Hence, the key to networking with the right professional or your target audience lies within your existing network and, in LinkedIn lingo, you can see them as your “Degrees of Connection”.

Want to know how you are connected with someone? Visit a profile of someone your connection and you can verify their degree right next to their name. You can also conduct a search on your search bar and select the degree of your connection. It is best to get a clear understanding of the various types of connections on LinkedIn.

1st Degree Connections:

These connections are people who are directly connected to you on LinkedIn. Some experts might opine that members of your group are also 1st Degree connections, since you can send them InMails without being a Premium Member. Whenever you accept an invite or someone accepts your connection request, they become your 1st Degree Connections. Furthermore, unless they choose to unfollow you, they become your followers by default. This is one of the reasons why your number of followers is different from your number of connections. Another reason being, followers who have chosen not to connect with you.

It is possible that you are connected to a person directly, as well as through mutual connections (also visible to you on their profile). A study of mutual connections can help you shape your communication strategy with your connections. After all, conversations are necessary for networking, aren’t they?

Engagement with your 1st Degree Connections is vital for building relationships and seeking referrals or introductions to people who are exclusively in their network. Their network minus the mutual connections, becomes a part of your 2nd Degree Connections.

2nd Degree Connections:

These include people who are connected to your network but not to you. Most 2nd Degree connections are open to direct invites but you may opt for an introduction through a mutual connection. You can see them on the profile of your 2nd degree and seek an introduction by someone connected to the both of you. You can also join a group of your 2nd degree connection or upgrade to a premium account and send them a direct InMail. The most obvious choice to build your network is to connect with 2nd Degree connections and we all are practising it, since most LinkedIn suggestions are people you are connected to via your network.

3rd Degree Connections:

These are people exclusively connected to users who are identified as 2nd degree connections i.e. these are people with zero mutual connections but they are networked with someone who is mutually connected to you. LinkedIn no longer allows many members, based on their membership or geography, to search for 3rd degree connections but it hasn’t permanently removed the feature, making it visible to the users. Currently, the only two ways to assess if a person is your 3rd degree connection are:

1.      To see their profile and check whether you can see their full name or just the initials. Those profiles which merely show the initials are people beyond your network i.e. beyond the 3rd degree.

2.      To conduct a painstaking exercise of reviewing visible connections of 2nd Degree connections and excluding mutual connections from the list. It is possible while people allow other users to view their connections.

The only way to connect to these people is to send a direct invite or a well drafted InMail that may convince them to network with you. The option to connect directly only exists if they are open networkers and you cannot send them an Inmail as a free member.

Beyond the 3rd Degree:

Well, they only mattered as long as you could see your 3rd Degree Connections. LinkedIn does claim that users of the recruiter plan can see linkages to candidates beyond the 3rd Degree but not many recruiters mention it as a useful practice since they can send direct InMails.


LinkedIn makes it possible to discover multiple paths through the social media grapevine to reach your prospect. This is one of the reasons why I believe LinkedIn Groups are a very useful tool, especially for those professionals who haven’t upgraded to a premium membership.

An easier way to network is to verify if someone beyond your network has specified a way to directly reach them or whether they participate in the comments section of articles and posts. What better way to network than to interact with them directly in the comments section. Simply go to their activities section and find a way to have a conversation.

The objective of being on LinkedIn is to improve the reach and quality of your network and the easiest way to do it is to upgrade your membership. Whatever the case, you can learn to maximise the utility of LinkedIn by gaining awareness and incorporating some easy practices, just follow the hashtag #TrevisanTips or join #LinkedInMastery2000.

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