LinkedIn: Connecting with Strangers – Yes You Should!
Like me, I am sure you have heard from many people, articles or even from LinkedIn itself that connections should be limited to “people that you know and trust.” Perhaps you treasure your LinkedIn connections list and wouldn’t even consider sending a connection request to someone you aren’t already professionally (or personally) involved with.
Ask yourself this question, if you attend a networking event, would the best course of action be to strictly limit yourself to talking to people you already know? Or, would it be to mingle and meet new people and expand your network? Sure, attending in-person networking events can be hard for people who aren’t necessarily social butterflies. Many people aren’t comfortable with going up to a random stranger and striking up a conversation – it can be difficult and intimidating. But, isn’t that the point?
As an example, you decide to attend a networking event one evening after work. Two employees from your company are attending the same event and because you felt uncomfortable striking up a conversation with a stranger those were the only two people you spoke to. Because you didn’t feel comfortable going outside of your circle didn’t meet anyone except the two people you see every single day at work. Did you really gain any benefit by attending that networking event? Okay, maybe you scored a few free drinks and some passed appetizers, but did you gain any career benefit?
If you limit your LinkedIn connections to people that you already know, aren’t you doing the same thing? There are many reasons that you should expand your network and here are just a few of them:
- Employment – perhaps you are actively seeking a new job at the moment or happily employed, you never know when the need might arise for a broad network to help you with career opportunities.
- Knowledge – perhaps you are filled to the brim with information that you would like to impart on others and are interested in writing articles or teaching seminars.
- Resources – perhaps you need resources in another city and don’t want to recreate the wheel.
- Experts or Vendors – perhaps you need an expert or a vendor in a certain field and have no idea where to start.
- Advice – perhaps you simply need to bend an ear on an issue that you are working on and could use advice from someone who has been there already.
There are many reasons that having a healthy and expansive LinkedIn connections list can benefit you – your connections can open doors for you. Connecting on LinkedIn is easy AND it doesn’t require awkward conversation. It only requires a desire to connect and a few clicks of the mouse.
Now, there are many reasons that are given by folks who say you should guard your connections list with your life. Here are just a few of those reasons:
Connecting with someone means that you endorse or approve of that person. This is a judgement call you will have to make yourself but I disagree. I don’t think accepting someones business card at an in-person networking event means you endorse or approve of a person and I don’t think connecting with them on LinkedIn does either. LinkedIn even has separate endorsement AND recommendation options that you can utilize if you DO want to officially endorse or recommend a person.
Connecting with someone gives that person access to your full list of connections. This is something that is easily controlled in your account settings. (Go to Privacy & Settings then click on “Select who can see your connections” and change it to “Only You”)
Connecting with someone will open you up to spam. Sure, this is a potential problem but I don’t think its a major one. I only get one or two “spam” messages a week from LinkedIn members compared to the hundreds I get every day in gmail. If you see that a particular person is contacting you too often with messages that you consider “spam”, simply remove them at that time.
Connecting with someone will fill up your news feed with too much information. Another issue which is easily dealt with. You can easily filter your news feed using the drop down menu at the top which usually says “All updates”. You can also remove individuals from your news feed while still remaining connected with them. To do this, simply mouse over the top right corner of the individual news feed item and click “hide” and that person will be hidden from your feed going forward.
Now, I am certainly not suggesting that you should blindly accept every connection request that comes your way. Use common sense. If the profile is empty or seems fishy, or the individual is heir to Nigerian royalty and promises you ten million dollars in their connection request, skip it. But, consider being more open about who you connect with. People in different geographical locations, in different fields of employment, in different stages of life, ALL have something valuable to offer and it’s only a matter of time before you may need to reach out to them, or they to you.
If you’ve read this to the bottom, feel free to send me a connection request.