LinkedIn’s recommendation to connect with only people you know is 20th century thinking in a radically changed 21st century world. It frankly makes no sense…but for some reason they doggedly hang on to this counter-intuitive policy.
Imagine growing up in a small town with just 15 or 20 possible dating partners…people you’ve known most of your life. Then you move to a big city where there are 50,000 potential dating partners…including many you would really like to meet…but you are still expected to only date from your original pool of a dozen or so. That’s what LinkedIn’s policy is like.
Connecting only to people you know completely goes against the entire concept of networking…which is to expand your number of contacts, especially with people you haven’t yet met who can become a mutually valuable relationship.
When you go to a conference or convention what’s the first thing you make certain to do? Take business cards…lots of them. Because you know you’ll meet new people. When you go to one of the ubiquitous networking events do you only talk with people you know? Of course not (well, unless you’re an introvert, but then what would you be doing there?).
Meeting new people opens up a world of opportunity. Some of the most valuable contacts I’ve made on LinkedIn are people who were complete strangers before they reached out to me…or me to them. I’m a member of the world’s largest angel investor group now because of a reach-out from someone I had never met before. From that contact I have met many new friends and had many opportunities presented to me that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.
I’ve also met people who were in my Journalism School class…but who I had never met when I was in school. Now we are friends…all because of a shared experience…not because we knew each other before. And it happened because of LinkedIn. In this case I was able to connect because we belong to the same Group. But I’ve met others who I just lied my way into meeting in order to get around LinkedIn’s outdated restrictions.
There are many reasons to meet people you don’t know:
- They went to the same school.
- A new grad wants to make connections in his/her field.
- You want to make friends and business connections in a new city.
- A person is a potential customer for your product or service.
- You have the expertise to help someone else.
- The contact is from you home town.
And so on.
Sure, LinkedIn offers Groups and introductions from contacts to facilitate meeting someone you don’t know. And those of us who have used LinkedIn almost daily since 2004 know how to circumvent their “don’t contact anyone you don’t know” policy. But why make everyone jump through these hoops when the end result is the same…meeting people you don’t know to expand your professional network?
Tell me…what do you think?