LinkedIn; a professional networking, social media tool. Everybody you speak with these days seems to tout networking as essential to job searching, moving up, staying relevant etc. It’s a logical question therefore to ask why you are wanting to connect with someone if you extend the invitation. I know I like to know.
Think pre-LinkedIn for a moment. Imagine you’re checking your voicemail and there is a message from someone you don’t personally know, asking to get together. You’d no doubt pause for a moment and ponder the reason why.
“Had a message today from someone named Tom Bradley. Wants to get together.”
“That’s what I’d like to know, He didn’t say.”
“Well you’ll just have to ask him when you speak with him.”
That kind of exchange might be somewhat the norm. If he left a number you’d likely ring him back and find out how he knows you and the reason for meeting. If you have a mutual friend, he likely tell you that the friend suggested he speak with you if that was the case and about what. Imagine however that you agreed to meet at a nearby pub without really knowing the reason for meeting – just go with me for a moment on this. Wouldn’t your brain be trying to find out the reason for the meeting the longer it went on? Wouldn’t you just come out and ask? It would be bizarre in that scenario if you eventually asked and he replied, “Nothing really, just thought it good to meet you.”
Such an exchange would make you cautious about future phone messages from people you don’t know wanting to get together for a chat. Who has time for this?
So it’s curious that in 2015 and with the social media experience we have, that you may have received invites from people who use the standard, “Hi __________. I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn”, and nothing more. If like me you have clicked the accept button, you may find out in a subsequent email why they wanted to connect or you may have had no other correspondence. So why did they want to connect?
Now let’s not be too harsh and judgemental. Some people have been told to network and think that means having 500+ connections. They don’t necessarily know what to do with those numbers, but it looks impressive to others if they have such a number. I for one am glad the public view stops at 500. It would appear otherwise to be a race to see who has the most connections, instead of what are you doing with all those connections.
Now you might of course want to connect with a person because you read something interesting in one of the group discussions that they posted which sparked your imagination. You may also have scoured LinkedIn searching for others who have similar job titles to your own in an effort to build up a relevant network of people you share employment with.
Perhaps too you are interested in working for a specific company and one of the strategies you are deploying is to connect with employees of that company so you can get some inside information, tips, advice or suggestions on how best to maximize your employment chances. Good for you if you do.
There are some people too who are impressed with the words on someone’s profile as they describe themselves; what they believe, their philosophy and motivation, how they go about their work, their past experiences etc. Like a magnet, some use their summary sections and job titles to draw in their audience and make connections that way. Again I say good for you if you do.
The point is know WHY you want to connect with someone, and find out WHY someone wants to connect with you. Now I don’t always follow my own advice. Just this weekend I had two requests and clicked on the accept button without then sending an email to ask why. I was hurried, should have waited to do it properly but didn’t.
If you ask someone why they wanted to connect with you, that information could be very useful. Maybe it is your tagline, your title, where you work etc. It’s like the initial scenario all over again but updated to 2015 – why do you want to connect? If you get enough people telling you it’s because you sound interesting or you could be influential etc., whatever the reason is you’ll know what in your profile is attracting people to you. Conversely, if few people are connecting with you and you’d like more, evaluate the effectiveness of your profile by looking at the profile of others like you.
I suppose too there are some users who want to be ‘connected’ with the big thinkers, the famous, the elite. While they might be interesting to read I agree, you won’t find Sir Richard Branson or others like him among my connections. Well if he asks me to connect I’ll let you know but I would scratch my head and wonder WHY he wanted to connect with me!
One reason I connect with others in my field is to share ideas, learn how others work, best practices, new ways of doing things and it’s give and take. I might one day help a peer with an open ear and the next reach out myself.
Why do you connect?