A colleague wrote me a question that I think many people are facing in today’s world of technology: the disappearing receptionist. You want to contact someone, but how?

He writes: How does one find the names of those responsible for a function when corporations increasingly have no switchboard just a telephone tree that responds only to names? I know I can search it on Linked In but only useful if the person is in my network.

I share your frustration. Just today, I spent a half hour trying to contact eBay about a problem I was having with a seller. Mind you, I sell on eBay too so I am pretty familiar with the website.

It is a constant struggle to find a phone number for customer service – that’s right I do not even need a name, just a department. When I finally get to a phone number after going through their maze of questions and answers that do not fit my situation, I am already in a bad mood.

OK, I am done with my rant, now on to your problem and hopefully a solution.

Using LinkedIn

There are a number of things you can do to boost access to people on LinkedIn – for free. All you need is a basic account and if you upgrade you can search more profiles at one time. Use the search criteria carefully and the 300 profiles they give you may be enough under the basic service.

The rule of thumb is, the more direct connections you have on LinkedIn, the greater your network reach or the number of people you have access to on the site.

If you want to expand your network professionally, read some tips here and here.

From any page inside your LinkedIn account, select the People tab in the upper right hand corner and click the magnifying glass icon. On this next page, search and filter by the following attributes:

  • Search by key word, name, title, company, school and location
  • Location – based on my connections, my reach within the US alone is 463,927 people and my world-wide access is 858,994 people
  • Relationship (see how my numbers multiply quickly below)
    • First degree connections (372)
    • 2nd degree Connections (73822)
    • Group Members (805,841)
    • There is no access to All Linkedin Members on this page – the advanced feature below might be helpful
  • Industry
  • Current Company
  • Past Company
  • School
  • Groups – read more on how groups help you below
  • Profile Language
  • When Joined

The Advanced People tab will let you search all LinkedIn members by using key words, name, location, title, company and school.

The Company tab is a newer feature. You can follow a company to find people who reside somewhere in your network (you can follow my company by clicking Follow Company on the left hand side of the page). The company page highlights:

  • which current employees are in your network
  • new hires
  • former employees
  • recent promotions and changes
  • who has the most popular profile

Groups is one of the best kept secrets. Join groups and you have access to the people in the group. You can send them a message for free because you are a member.

Your membership in a group also increases your network size and helps to provide more results in People Search or Advanced People Search. Join the ones that are relevant to the industries or professional disciplines you have an interest in getting to know better.

If you are still looking for more ways to use LinkedIn, here is a list of 100+ Ways to Use LinkedIn.

Other Methods

Another alternative is to consider the approach recruiters use. Organizational charts are extremely useful when you want to find someone in a company. You can contact the person who reports to them or the position or someone one in a similar department who may help you.

Companies do not like their organization charts floating out in the public for many reasons, if you get a hold of one, keep it. The jury is out if people or organizational structure changes more – in either case, you have a starting point to penetrate who to find where.

A colleague of mine uses the Public Library to search for the people he wants to find. If you are looking for individuals or roles of people who are listed in company records, do a search on the industry (SEC code) and you may find more data than you can handle. He has accumulated over 10,000 records on CEOs in his industry. It might be labor intensive  – now you know why databases are valuable.

Join professional organizations whose members are the people you want to meet or talk with by phone. Most organizations have member directories that are available for purchase or they may be online for free. They do not condone solicitation; however, if you refine your approach the other person may welcome your call.

If you have an innovative way to find someone, leave a comment so that we can all learn from one another.

Lynn Dessert owns Leadership Breakthrough, improving personal communication and influence one-step at a time. Post your thoughts or email me!