We’ve all experienced it. That awkward email that comes from someone you don’t really know that reads, “Please add me to your Linkedin network.” Ugh, what to do? You can accept it and hope they don’t cause any problems. You can politely decline, which can be uncomfortable and difficult to pull off. Or you can simply ignore the invite to connect and hope you never see the person again. But what is the right approach? Here are some things you need to consider and a few questions you should ask yourself before accepting.
Your Linkedin network is a powerful reflection of who you are. The number of people, the type of people, the quality of people you are connected to all reflect on who you are as a professional. And to really drive home this point, the first thing people usually see when they look you up online is your Linkedin profile, and if they are in any way connected to you they will be able to see some, or all, of your other connections. It is smart to choose wisely.
You can look at it another way. If your entire network was available for the world to see, would you still include everyone you currently have in your network? Would you accept that invite you just got? There is an old adage about the internet that still holds true, “Don’t do anything on the Internet that you don’t want the world to see.” or in Linkedin’s case, “Don’t make any connections on Linkedin that you wouldn’t want the world to see.”
A Few Questions to Ask Yourself
Have I met them in person?
I often use this as a major factor when choosing whether or not to connect with someone. I also use it as a reason not to connect if someone I don’t really know requests a connection.
Do they/can they provide value to me?
I like to connect with people who are experts in something I know very little about. I also like to connect to people who can assist me with something I am interested in.
Do I trust them?
This person will have, at the very least, partial access to your network. Do you trust them with that access? Would you feel comfortable introducing the person requesting the connection to some of the most valuable members of your network? You should, because there is a chance you will be asked to make that introduction.
Do I like the person?
This one is simple and often the most important aspect of determining whether to connect with someone. Simply put, do you like them? If you’re not sure, then you probably don’t know the person well enough to be connected to them. Make an effort to get to know them either in person or over the phone and then decide about that invite.
Ultimately, there is no tried and true way of deciding who to connect with on Linkedin. It is your network and you will need to decide what combination of criteria works best for you. But it is critically important to be on Linkedin and it’s important to put some thought into who you connect with, and who you don’t.