Improving The Value of Your Network: A Modest Proposal

originally published on LinkedIn

It seems that the most common pattern in LinkedIn networking is to indiscriminately and promiscuously seek to request and accept invitations to connect. 

But, to what end?

Why invite (or accept) anyone into your network to begin with?

This may seem of negligible concern to many, but allow me to submit for your consideration this premise: Accepting an invite from someone that you don't know (or know well) bears non-trivial risks, with dubious potential benefit. The person may abuse the privilege of access to your network of contacts (ignoring for the moment the socially stunted and counter-productive aberrant behavior of those who don't allow members of their network to view their connections...). Or, the casual connection seeker may have a checkered past - and that by your accepting (or seeking) their connection - may cause others to question your own ethics or integrity.

My own approach has been to strive to limit seeking (or accepting) networking connections - to people that I actually know (either personally, or professionally).  But even that has probably been with a greater latitude than is warranted.

In trying to increase the value of my connection to the people in my own network, I often try to connect people that I think may benefit from an introduction.  To those that have taken the time to respond to those efforts, I thank you with much gratitude. You have helped to re-affirm my conviction in the effort that I expend to build and maintain my professional network. To those that have reached out to me in the past for assistance, I hope that my own responsiveness to your inquiries has demonstrated my steadfast commitment to "be there" for the people who are in my network of connections.

I value my connections with the people in my network - not on the basis of "what can you do for me?" - but with an intent of building long-lasting relationships, and always with a First Principle of "what can I do to help you?". 

Over the years, I've leveraged my LinkedIn network frequently to help people that were looking for jobs, made introductions to like-minded people with shared interest that I hold in high esteem - who may also benefit in some way from being introduced, refer candidates to help fill positions, and used it to continue benefiting my connections by publicly posting (or privately sending) links to articles, news stories, news about new emerging technologies, suggestions that might help them grow professionally - or ideas for new products or services to help them grow their business.

However, I suspect that many fail to truly appreciate the value or purpose of a professional network, who silently ignore an extended offer for a mutual introduction, or a request to help facilitate an introduction on behalf of another person.

So my modest proposal is this: Review your LinkedIn network - and if you see anyone in your network, for whom you would be hesitant to "stand and deliver" when asked, then remove them.