LinkedIn is a very powerful tool for building and maintaining your professional network. I’ve blogged about LinkedIn often. Check out Getting Started on LinkedIn for College Students and LinkedIn Maps to Visualize Your Network.
I currently have 500+ people in my LinkedIn network. I did not add these people randomly, but instead chose to add them to my network. For the LinkedIn requests I receive, I use my own LinkedIn protocol to determine with whom I will connect. My guidelines are not complicated, are infinitely flexible and work for me very well.
For everyone on LinkedIn considering a “Connect” request, the most important question is: “Why does this person want to connect with me?” (or said another way, “Why should I connect with this person?”). The “why” is very important– don’t forget to include it. Here are some possible reasons, we might connect:
- Have we ever met in person? If so, what was the occasion?
- Do we currently or previously work for the same organization?
- Do we work in the same or related industries?
- Do we share the same professional interests?
- Are we members of the same professional groups on LinkedIn?
- Do we have a professional connect in common?
- Are we fellow alumni from the same university, graduate school, etc.?
- Do you have a specific interest, opportunity, inquiry in connecting with me at this time?
At the risk of being blunt. . . if you haven’t answered at least one of the questions above in your “Connect” request, I probably won’t accept. In which case, you’ve wasted my time and your own. Networking is about building and maintaining relationships with people. You wouldn’t walk past me at an event and slip your business card into my pocket, right? Sending a generic “Connect” request is the same thing.