True Confessions: I used to be the girl who could not say no… to LinkedIn requests that is! So I said yes to former high school classmates, random academics from universities I had never heard of in countries I would not want to visit, and yes even strangers. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. (And even you the nice Russian lady wanting to meet men… well I almost said yes!) I used to say yes to all LinkedIn requests and at first it felt good, really good. And then recently, LinkedIn reinforced my non-discriminating networking ways by letting me know that I was in the top 5% of most frequently viewed profiles! And sadly I will admit that felt good. In short, I had become a LinkedIn hussy!
Thanks to tenure, I don’t do a lot of job searching for myself these days. However, I do use LinkedIn frequently and mainly to help my current students connect with my former students for informational interviews, jobs, and internships. It has been a very positive addition to my networking bag of tricks. Recently though I had the realization that my virtual network is only as meaningful as my real relationships. If I refer a student to someone I don’t even know then it is really no different than a cold call. So I have had to rethink my approach and come clean about my errant ways. It might seem obvious but I have now developed a criteria for acceptance to my LinkedIn network. So here is mine:
- If you are a former student or alum of LMU, I will usually say yes. I am an LMU professor and so I think part of my job is be in your network and most of the time it is truly my pleasure to do so.
- Classmates from USC or my doctoral program at Claremont? Likely yes.
- Any current real friends that I actually meet with and see even occasionally face-to-face? Yes. You are in.
- Any current or past clients from my consulting practice and speaking engagement? Yes.
- Academics who are in my field and area of interest? Yes.
- Past childhood classmates, neighbors or former prom dates? With a few notable exceptions unless we have something professionally in common or a real relationship today. No. Sorry.
- Someone with an interesting professional background who sends me a personal message explaining why we should be connected. Possibly. But I have to think about it.
One last tip-when you send out a LinkedIn request and you really care if this person says yes, make “the ask” personal. And when you get asked, think about your criteria and ask yourself will this person really add value to your network? Of course, I understand when you are starting out it might behoove you to “hussy up” but once you are established, a criteria will keep your network high quality. Who will you say Yes to?