Who do you connect with on LinkedIn?

When I first started on LinkedIn, I followed the original directions very tightly. I only connected with people I knew well. After all, those were the guidelines. But as my network grew and time went on that changed.

Last night, I was reading a conversation thread on Career Director International’s e-list. Someone had asked about how people felt when people sent invitations without a clear connection and worse yet used the traditional LinkedIn invite: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”

The story of me starting on LinkedIn, my very first social network, is here. When Olympic Slalom Coach Bob Campbell sent me my very first invite it was the standard greeting but I wasn’t going to turn him down. Nor when Olympic Gold medal winner Joe Jacobi invited me with the standard greeting of “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” did I turn him down. Bob and Joe were friends and so I did know who I was connecting with but they used the standard greeting. I remember replying, “I don’t know what LinkedIn is but sure.”

My relationship with Joe actually grew much stronger because of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and loving social media networking. Joe’s in charge of USA Canoe/Kayak now, a role that I was excited to see him take on. He has used social media effectively to grow that organization too. I bet he still connects willingly with new people.

What is LinkedIn for?

While I was contemplating and reminiscing, Laura Smith-Proulx, an esteemed and respected colleague, vocalized what I was thinking. She said, “I’m always surprised when others say they won’t connect with someone they don’t know. How else do you expand your professional network or promote your business? What else is LinkedIn for?”

Exactly! I have had many people that I didn’t know at all connect with me on LinkedIn and other platforms. I can’t read their minds and I don’t know why they want to connect but I can tell you that I have landed clients from new LinkedIn connections that I know I would never have connected with without LinkedIn. I see it as an opportunity for them to get to know me and see if working with me makes sense. I both have my blog linked to my profile and I post blog posts as status updates on LinkedIn so being connected to me allows them to access my information directly.

The Standard LinkedIn Invite

Though I coach my clients to build effective invitations that are personalized to help them connect with people, I understand why people don’t always use the personalized version.

  1. There are some places on LinkedIn like this screen on the left above. If you enter e-mail addresses here, you will end up sending the standard invite and it moves so fast that I can’t find the personalization option.
  2. Some of us have been on social media for so long (well, in terms of a long time in social media worlds) and we don’t remember what it was like to be a newbie. We complain about people not personalizing their invites but honestly maybe no one ever told them the rules.

Set your own rules!

Lighten up, people! You can set your own rules. I do connect with people I don’t know because I don’t know where my next client will come from. Working with people from throughout the world, LinkedIn is a great tool to help people find me and trust me.

I wrote a LinkedIn profile for someone who connected with me and then asked me to write his profile. He was in Saudi Arabia. Just like with my other clients, we connected, then we set an appointment and used Skype to write the profile in real time. But if I had said no to his invite, would I have worked with him at all? Probably not.

I also connect with colleagues. It makes no sense to me to avoid connections with colleagues and many of my colleagues have become my friends precisely because we talk or connect on social media. I think often people fear connecting with those in the same business because they think they will lose their slice of the pie. I find that my clients choose my services because of the connections we build and my colleagues add value to my life through the information they share and the friendship we exchange.

Everyone will have different perspectives but since I am building a business one client at a time, I welcome new connections. I love the ripple-effect!

Stuck in your job search or just ready to move on or up from your existing position? Julie Walraven, a Wausau, Wisconsin-based professional resume writer and career marketing strategist, can help you get ready for your next role! To find out how, Click here!

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  1. Brent Pohlman on November 17, 2011 at 9:32 am


    Great Article! I totally agree! You need to expand your market. I am still selective, but it is great to connect with people in your target market area or with other business professionals in your same profession, (i.e. Marketing Professionals)

    Meeting people through groups. Also, I am finding more people are accepting general invitations as well. The follow-up thank you message for connecting is the key!

    Thanks for sharing!


    • Julie Walraven on November 17, 2011 at 10:22 am

      Thanks, Brent. I am selective in some spaces but on LinkedIn, the volume isn’t there like Twitter where spambots and other things seem to be as prevalent as real people.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. JM Auron on November 17, 2011 at 10:56 am

    I agree – some great advice. Personally, I don’t use the standard LinkedIn invite – I always write a brief note to someone I’ve worked with. I will expand that to inviting people I’ve followed, and would like to add to my network…


    JM Auron

    • Julie Walraven on November 17, 2011 at 1:44 pm

      I always write notes too but I don’t want to criticize someone who uses the standard invite because they haven’t gotten to the point we are in social media. It is a learning curve and I think those of us who have adapted it for marketing are more likely to learn the fine points than those who are just experimenting with it as a resource.

  3. Camille on November 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    I already wrote most of my comments about my “philosophy” on the elist, but just wanted to say it is good to see/read your thoughts here! =)

    • Julie Walraven on November 17, 2011 at 9:35 pm

      I think you shared some of what you would say below, but I would guess that many of the people who read my blog aren’t likely to have read the e-list so feel free to share more, Camille.

      • Camille on November 18, 2011 at 6:03 pm

        I too do things a bit different and it has worked so far for 23 years. LOL. =)

        Here is my reply that went to the elist:

        I agree with you, Laura, but must admit I used to be of the mindset of a closed networker. I am now a LION and have been for quite a while. Since changing that mindset, I have become more valuable to my network, clients, and friends, and they have become MUCH more valuable to me. I have met so many neat people and received a lot of business.

        Many of my clients are employed, as well, and are passively seeking the next career move. I call them stealthers to wealthers. (Gosh, I love those clients…and they love learning about LinkedIn.)

        If I have a client looking for X and I have someone who is in the X field in my network, I can find them very quickly using the advanced search functions. When I introduce them to each other, they both can see how they are connected and the conversation begins. I love being a connector, resource, and match maker. I just write it off as giving back and part of my job, but the rewards are bountiful.

        One of my clients wrote me last week saying:

        Dear Ms. LinkedIn Queen Connector,

        SCORE! Thank you very much for connecting me with ______. I will be eternally grateful. You know, I had been searching for someone like _________. I can’t believe you found someone within a few minutes of you responding to my email. YOU are super good! We had a great conversation and he has connections over in ____________ with ________________. I will definitely keep you posted.

        It wasn’t really me. It was because I connected with someone I didn’t know. It was my network at work, and knowing how to advanced search. This connection will probably net the two of them a business deal worth millions, and they both know I know social media…and they really don’t know how to use it like they should be—perhaps a nice business deal for all of us.

        LinkedIn is very powerful. In my opinion now, the more connections, the better. I never know when I’m going to need _______ and I am happy to be a resource and a connector.

        Just my 2 cents…and I totally respect others with differing opinions.

        • Camille on November 18, 2011 at 6:05 pm

          Goodness…look who forgot to punctuate in the first line… I couldn’t see a way to edit. =)

          • Julie Walraven on November 18, 2011 at 6:37 pm

            You are so right and I actually never read this reply on the list. My lists and my blog posts are filtered into holders and as busy as I am, most of the time I miss them unless I read them on my phone. Your expertise in technology has always amazed me, Camille, and I can see why social media would be comfortable for you. I love it and though of late seem to spend less time than previously, I will always enjoy it.

  4. Dawn on November 17, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Hi Julie-
    Ouch! I realize, as the person who started the online discussion, how much I was limiting myself by only connecting with people I know.

    I’ve been meeting people via meetings, events, email exchanges, referrals, social media platforms, and we have connected on LinkedIn, so I’ve always been adding to my contacts.

    But I’ve been limiting myself through a method I thought was important- I was worried if someone ever needed to reach out to a contact in my network, I thought I would have better credibility with someone who actually knew me.

    But the conversational thread and the points that you made in this blog post are opening my mind up to a lot of possibilities so I have opted to go the open networking route and see what happens. Sounds like the positives far outweigh the negatives.

    • Julie Walraven on November 17, 2011 at 9:04 pm

      Well, Dawn, I doubt very much that you are the only one who was thinking that way. I write posts from content I read somewhere and think that it may have a different viewpoint or there is an opportunity to give my readers information.

      I liked Laura’s comment and so I asked her if I could share it. We often get stuck in a way of thinking, sometimes because we are ahead of the game and so we think there are certain ways things should be done. I wouldn’t call me an open networker exactly, I just don’t turn down invites when I don’t know people personally. One of those people who connected with me on LinkedIn has not only become a client but she has already referred another client and she has become one of my strongest advocates. I just see blessings behind doors that I open.

      You know I value your friendship and I wouldn’t have shared your name here if you hadn’t commented. But if it blesses you in the future, then it is a win-win.

  5. Camille on November 17, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    @Dawn – I don’t think you were doing anything wrong at all. It’s a matter of learning what works for you and what you like. You might find that open networking doesn’t work for you. I had the same mindset of only connecting with people I knew. So I thought I would try it and see what happens and I have met some wonderful people and have been able to connect people to people. You have a smart head on your shoulders. =)

    • Julie Walraven on November 17, 2011 at 9:07 pm

      Hi Camille, you can see my comment to Dawn above. I think that there are many ways to see everything. But it is my nature to question why not. that’s how I built my business… doing things a little differently.

  6. Dawn on November 17, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    @Julie and @Camille – that’s what I enjoy about posts like this and the great network of career industry minds – we share ideas and perspectives that can open doors… I got several requests to connect today from people I don’t know on LinkedIn and immediately accepted. Like you said, it is about making it possible for opportunity to happen! 🙂 Great post, by the way!!!

    • Julie Walraven on November 17, 2011 at 9:36 pm

      That’s the way, Dawn! I wish you blessings in those connections!

  7. Joe Jacobi on November 18, 2011 at 7:23 am

    I’m glad our friendship survived the standard greetings 🙂

    I guess the lessons are 1) personalize the greetings and 2) realize the greeting is starting point!

    As always, great work Julie!

    • Julie Walraven on November 18, 2011 at 7:48 am

      Me too, Joe! Thanks Joe, your journey since those early days has been very amazing. I love watching how you use the tools every day.

  8. Camille on November 18, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Aww, thank you, Julie. And, YOU are the master blogger! I don’t always get time to read blogs because I am also very busy, but it always nice stopping by yours! I’ve also changed my mind on blogging and will be starting one after the first of the year. (Wish me luck!)

  9. Dawn on November 22, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Julie- thanks again for your post – appreciated it and wrote my own post (with a linkback to this post):

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