One of the most valuable career assets any of us can possess is a high quality business and professional network composed of people we’ve worked / collaborated with (or connected to) at some point in our careers.
By taking this approach, there’s something at stake with this LinkedIn approach: the people that we choose to connect with have integrity and quality, we know them and they know us, and we feel comfortable helping them out if they ask for assistance.
Let’s take this one level deeper: these people are also the ones with whom we have meaningful relationships and a general level of mutual respect from personal knowledge / connection.
One of my biggest personal pet peeves includes receiving a request from a random person that I don’t know… and especially when this person doesn’t even bother to take a moment to let me know why they would like to connect.
You know the types… they cruise LinkedIn looking for people to add. Frequent criteria for these folks include looking for potential connections who have a lot of contacts in their network… or are a mover and shaker with whom they would like to be associated. So the LinkedIn cruiser sends a request to connect… with nary a courtesy introduction as to why they would like to do so in hopes that the recipient just simply clicks "accept invitation."
Bingo! "Another connection added," thinks the LinkedIn cruiser. Then they move on to the next contact target.
I call these people “collectors” – it seems that their request is all about the number count and getting another notch on their belt to boost their network size.
But what they are actually doing is creating a pretty flimsily-assembled group of people with whom they have no real meaningful connection.
Fortunately, most of us don’t operate that way. And we don’t like being someone else's statistic, either, if you know what I mean.
Most business people are probably actually quite open to connecting to new contacts, but if a unknown person wants to be a part of your network, having a basis for which to establish a relationship is critical to establishing a meaningful connection.
And when someone doesn’t even take the time to write a short introductory note, then this kind of request screams: “Collector!”
And the sad part is that anytime someone sends a request, they are actually missing a true opportunity. A short note explaining how they found you or the reason why they would like to connect is a genuine basis to start a conversation and business relationship. The personalized note acts to authenticate the connection request.
And these days, it’s not so much about the quantity as much as it is totally about quality.
But even after that point, some people simply don’t get it.
An example just from today: I received an email from a stranger without any mutual connections that was nothing more than the basic:
“I would like to connect with you on LinkedIn.”
So, I emailed back:
“Thanks for your request to connect- I only accept invitations with people that I know...can you help me by providing some information on where we might have met before? Thanks for understanding!”
This person then emailed back and told me to go visit their company website which should be a compelling enough reason for us to connect. Additionally, they mentioned that their company has had a ‘surge in clients worldwide’ … yet at the same time they told me that they had ‘decided to use LinkedIn as a means to find and connect with potential associates around the world who might be able to help me service their requirements.’
How motivated would I be to help this person? I basically got hit up with first an anonymous request, then a follow-up one asking me to help someone I don’t know find people to help them with their marketing efforts...and the kicker was that this person was too lazy to even make a compelling reason in the personal message to me why I should help them.... they simply told me to go to their website!
Ouch. Way off the mark, and totally ineffective.
We all gain something from cultivating strong relationships with our colleagues, co-workers, and professional contacts. Maintaining a quality and personal connection to each one of these people is critical to our mutual success and builds the synergy that composes the give-and-take cycles of healthy relationships.
But when it comes to adding meaningless connections just to ‘get numbers,’ strangers can't simply just show up to take, and even more so when they offer to give nothing in return. This isn’t an effective use of one’s time nor effort, and ends up missing the critical benefit of LinkedIn.
Simply put: We do business with people we know and trust.
There is no ‘easy’ button in estabishing relationships, but an effort needs to be made to personalize a request. It takes time and social skill to define and develop those relationships, and by being a collector or user, you are cutting yourself out of working with a beneficial tool that could make the difference in your career advancement through people motivated to help you by virtual of personal association and knowledge of who you are.
Choose your connections carefully- and when they connect, that means that they have chosen you, and there is weight in their trust of your integrity and personal relationship... and that they have voted 'yes' by connecting to you.