I’ll just put it out there—I have a big ol’ mushy spot in my heart reserved for LinkedIn. As a freelance writer, it’s been a great resource for me to not only get connected with new professional contacts, but even land some well-paying projects.
So, I can’t help but to be a little surprised when people seem positively disgusted with the fact that I accept LinkedIn requests from complete strangers. “You do that?” they’ll ask with facial expressions that would make you think I just confessed to spitting in the shared appetizer. “Well, I never accept an invitation from someone, unless I know him or her personally.”
I have to admit that restrictive policy seems strange to me. But, it’s one I hear reinforced by people time and time again—even by some of my fellow writers here at The Muse.
However, my view on the matter is that LinkedIn is a networking site. And, I simply don’t look at networking as an opportunity to chat with a bunch of people I already know. Instead, it’s a chance to meet new professionals.
Just think about it this way—would you head out to a traditional in-person event only to mingle with all of your closest friends and acquaintances by the hors d’oeuvres table? Probably not.
Needless to say, I’ll accept a LinkedIn invitation from just about anybody. Of course, there are a few things I always check for—like a profile picture and a decent amount of existing connections. But, as long as the request fills those key requirements, you’re welcomed in with open arms.
While I can understand the hesitation to accept just any invitation that shows up in your inbox (because you want to make meaningful connections and the internet has no shortage of weirdos), I think there are some definite advantages to being a little less stingy with those connection approvals. Here are a few of them.
1. You Won’t Limit Yourself Geographically
I live in a pretty small town in Wisconsin. However, I work with people and companies all over the country—hey, even the world. From New York City and San Francisco all the way to London, my professional web is pretty far-reaching—even though my daily workday consists of me sitting alone in front of my computer in a little city in the Midwest.
As I’m sure you can imagine, if I was only willing to connect with the people I had ever shared a handshake with, I’d be swimming in a pretty small pond. Sure, I still make an effort to put myself out there at different meetings and events in my community. But, that doesn’t mean I want my set of contacts limited to my (admittedly very small) geographical area.
2. You Open Yourself Up to New Opportunities
In my dream world, everybody would send a completely personalized message along with LinkedIn invitations, rather than the generic “Please add me to your professional network” note that’s auto-filled.
But, unfortunately, not every dream can be a reality—meaning that I’m on the receiving end of quite a few of those nonspecific memos. And, while I often need to quiet that voice in my head that yells, “How dare he not personalize this invitation! He deserves to be rejected!”—I usually end up hitting “accept” anyway.
Why? Well, honestly, not everybody knows enough to personalize that text—despite our best efforts here at The Muse. And, while people may not customize that initial note, there have been numerous times when I’ve received a follow-up message from a new connection very soon after accepting his or her generic request. It’s at that point that he or she explains the reasoning behind connecting, which is something that usually directly benefits me or the both of us.
If I would’ve let that little voice in my head or a strict personal policy rule my decision-making and inspire me to reject that person? Well, I would’ve closed myself off to some pretty great opportunities.
3. You Can Get Your Foot in the Door
Being a freelancer full-time can be a little strange. Many times, it feels like I need to reapply for my job nearly every single day or week, as I’m constantly on the hunt for new clients and projects to fill my time (and pay my bills).
What does this mean? Quite simply, I send a lot of cold emails to publications and companies. But, before even doing that, I typically search my LinkedIn contacts to see if I’m already connected with somebody who works for that employer. If I do? I start my gig-hunting process by sending him or her an introductory message—which usually results in getting directly connected with someone I can chat with about writing opportunities.
Even if you aren’t a freelancer, being a little more open-minded about what LinkedIn requests you accept will greatly benefit you when it comes time to search for a new position—you might just be connected with someone who can put in a good word for you. A large professional network is very rarely a bad thing.
4. You Won’t Do Anything You Can’t Undo
Nothing is forever—including LinkedIn connections. Like you, I’ve heard all of the social networking horror stories. And, you very well might accept a request from someone who proceeds to bombard you with endless messages and clogs up your feed with far too many motivational memes.
But, you know what happens then? You simply remove the connection. It takes just a few quick clicks, and that tie is immediately severed. Even better? That person won’t receive a notification that you’ve chosen to disconnect. He or she will just figure it out the hard way when stopping by your profile next time.
I’m all for making meaningful connections—and, trust me, I’ve used the platform to do just that plenty of times. But, that doesn’t mean I need to shut myself off to any other request or opportunity. In fact, I think plenty of good things can result from accepting an invitation from a complete stranger. My mantra? The more the merrier!
What do you think about accepting requests from strangers? I know it’s a touchy subject, so let me know your thoughts on Twitter. Or, better yet, send me an invitation on LinkedIn. Fair warning—your message better be personalized.