LinkedIn, networking, and creating value in relationships

Some people are a little bit click happy when it comes to LinkedIn, and a little too trigger happy when it comes to networking.

They’re the type that will add you on LinkedIn even though they haven’t even said two words to you yet. They’re the type who ask for endorsements, although they’re not in your department and you haven’t worked together ever. These people are the ones who will “befriend” you just because they think you will be useful someday when they need a job from you. 

LinkedIn connections
Shaking hands = best friends?

If friends who only talk to you when they need something are called fair-weather friends, then these people are clear-weather connections (do you like what I did there?). They’re the people who will never be there when you need them,  but will suddenly appear when they need you. They are the people who are always willing to jump in when your success is beckoning, but will never be willing to lend you a hand when you’re slumped over.

How many LinkedIn connections do you need in order to validate yourself as a professional? How many business cards should you have in your Filofax before you can say that you know a lot of people?

To all the people I know who are click-happy on LinkedIn, or who think that having someone’s business card is the equivalent to having a ‘person on the inside’, there are a few things you should know:

1) Your intentions and motivations are transparent

I know someone, let’s call him Smith. He talks to people he thinks are well-connected, and ‘checks in’ on Facebook whenever he’s with someone he thinks would contribute to his image of being a corporate ladder-climber. Whenever he talks to you, his only intention appears to be a) to discuss himself and his own workplace concerns, or b) to entertain the idea that you can possibly provide him with an opportunity.

I’ve heard from people that Smith has gone to interviews with. I’ve heard from people that have met him, and people who have been his friend for a long time. The only thing that these people have in common is that they all say he seems self-interested and self-involved.

People talk, and people see straight through your motivations. If you call someone because you need something once, it might go by unnoticed. Do it twice, people begin to wonder. Do it to every single person you meet every time you need something, and that’s something that’s harder to shake than a bad smell. Genuine motives, on the other hand, are also transparent, and will get you further than being a clear-weather connection ever will.

2) Having someone’s business card or added on LinkedIn is not equivalent to having them as a connection

Having a lot of connections on LinkedIn or an assortment of business cards in your folder is the equivalent to having a five-digit follower count on Twitter, or over 1,000 friends on Facebook. A handful of these may be people that are important to you and your career, some more may be people you would like to keep in touch with, but if you have people on your LinkedIn who you have no intention of ever speaking to or working with again, there is probably not much point on keeping them on there – and if you are adding people you don’t know, just because you ‘think’ you might work with them in the future, just hold off. Having them as a connection now versus having them as a connection later will not affect you as much as you think. Adding someone when you don’t even know them, however, can do wonders when it comes to damaging your dignity.

and the mother of all things to say…3) It’s okay if you’re not liked by everyone

Sad kittens - but nobody likes me!
I just want to be loved…

I’ll admit – I struggle with this every single day of my life. From a young age, I have always wanted to be accepted, and when I started working three years ago, I panicked because I didn’t get along with people in my workplace. I thought that everyone should be friends. I thought that when I worked somewhere, everyone would help each other out. I thought I would put in the effort with people. I added them on LinkedIn, on Facebook, talked to them, and always tried to do what was best for them. But in the end, this only goes so far.

Sometimes, you’ll create relationships at work that just don’t have that much value. You only know each other and work together for a certain time frame  and after that, no matter how hard you try, that connection just won’t last. Stop trying to force a stronger relationship; be civil and work together, and move on when you’re done. Spend the time cultivating and fostering relationships that really matter to you, with connections that will be future clients, business partners, or even friends. As far as ROI is concerned, that’s as good as you can get.

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