LinkedIn is like the Electric Slide. Everyone is doing it, but not everyone is doing it right (sorry to those who always throw off the person beside you because you’re directionally challenged).
There’s something about the way people “network” on LinkedIn that is either a reflection of our society becoming more socially awkward or a reflection of our society becoming more “me” oriented—or probably both.
Networking on LinkedIn should be a dance where everyone is on the same page and moving (or grooving) in the same direction. Anything else is just a semblance of what it was originally meant to be used for. Don’t be that person everyone looks at because you didn’t take the right steps by making these mistakes.
1. Sending generic requests
Would you walk up to a complete stranger and ask for inside access to their personal information and contacts? (I will proceed assuming your answer is, “Pffft, of course not. What kind of person do you think I am?”)
Just because you’re networking over the Internet doesn’t mean social etiquette should be thrown out the window. You should establish some type of rapport with anyone you send a LinkedIn invitation to, even if it’s brief.
If there is someone you don’t know but have similar interests, or mutual friends, that you would like to network with, take the time to personalize the request instead of sending the generic invitation message. A generic message comes off as being a lazy networker and that’s not the impression that you want to make. Something as simple as including the person’s name and a brief greeting will come across more genuine, which will lead to a better chance of your invitation being accepted.
2. Accepting everyone’s requests
Not everyone deserves to be a part of your professional network. Once you’ve been on LinkedIn long enough, you may start getting requests from people that you don’t know. Sometimes you may have a mutual connection; sometimes none at all. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for who you should connect with, but keep this in mind: Quality over quantity. There is power in growing your network, and having the 500+ status on your profile looks great, but you want quality connections not spammers or people who are not using LinkedIn professionally—and they’re out there, believe me.
Also, when you accept an invitation to connect from a questionable networker, you open up access to others in your network (unless you have elected to have that information private to only you). This means someone can potentially reach out to one of your connections and they may accept the request thinking you have vouched for that person.
When you receive an invitation to connect, take the time to look at the person’s profile and see if it’s someone you want to network with. Does the person have a complete professional profile? Do you share similar interests or groups? If yes, go for it. After all, that’s what networking is about. The key is not to accept anyone you would not want to network with in person or bring to an event with you.
3. Getting too personal
Not everything about your personal brand is everyone’s business. Here’s the thing about LinkedIn: There is more freedom to show your brand in a less formal way outside of your resume. But you should be mindful of the information you include and post. For example, your age, marital status, religious and political beliefs should be kept off your profile as it wouldn’t be on your resume either.
It’s not to say that you should hide your personal life or beliefs, but this is still a social platform used for business. After all, LinkedIn’s mission statement is to “connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful…” You don’t want any biases attached to you because of information that you disclosed that has nothing to do with your professional capabilities. This is especially important if you are actively looking for a job.
Also, as a side note: There are spammers on LinkedIn who may use your personal information for illegal purposes. Either way, personal information outside of related hobbies or interests can be left off LinkedIn. Stick to showing your personal brand in a way that makes you stand out from the crowd positively.
4. Asking for favors without keeping in touch
One of the things I talk about often is nurturing relationships. It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to keep in touch with key connections (former managers, colleges, recruiters). Even if you’re not looking for a job or favor right now, you can alleviate the awkwardness of asking for help by keeping in touch. These don’t have to be daily or even monthly interactions, but enough where the other person would not hesitate to think about you if you ask for help or an opportunity pops up.
If you have a strong personal brand, you probably will have people that would help you regardless, but you never want the relationship to be one sided. Part of building a strong personal brand is being able to tap into your network for favors or information as needed. Just remember it’s important to give back to your network as well.