LinkedIn is a network where you showcase your greatest skills and achievements to people with whom you’ve worked and networked. That’s why I feel conflicted when people I’ve never met ask to connect with me.
I know what it’s like to try to aggressively advance your career. In fact, many people have great “I-met-a-stranger-it-lead-to-a-job” stories. However, whenever I receive an invitation from someone I don’t know on LinkedIn, a few things run through my mind and make me hesitant:
- These strangers could be unprofessional people to work with. Am I possibly hurting my reputation?
- 67% of users are located outside of the U.S. What’s the benefit of connecting with someone abroad?
- If someone asks me about my connection to a stranger, what do I say?
LinkedIn is aware of this issue and does its best to prevent rogue outreach. The network flags users that send strangers invitations and forces them to enter each future connection’s email address.
But I don’t think you necessarily need to go straight to reporting. I recommend one of two options.
#1 – If you’re open to networking via LinkedIn, send back a message before you accept in order to learn more about the person. Try this:
Thanks so much for reaching out! I don’t believe we’ve met in person (I’m sorry if I’m mistaken). Could you tell me a bit more about yourself and what you’re looking to achieve on LinkedIn through our connection before I accept? I’m always happy to help!
#2 – If you don’t want to connect to people you haven’t met, I’ve come up with a method of rejecting people on LinkedIn without seeming like a total jerk. I send the stranger this message:
Thanks so much for reaching out! I reserve LinkedIn for people I’ve worked with or met in person. May I ask what your goals are for reaching out? Would you like to connect in person?
Another option: I love to connect with people on Twitter. I’m [your handle]. Send me your handle and I’ll follow you!
Twitter is a great place to share ideas with professionals in your industry and a more commonplace to associate with strangers. And don’t discount in-person networking; be open to meeting people at networking events or even coffee shops–but make sure that it’s a public place (just to be safe).
And lastly, whether stranger or colleague, keep your LinkedIn network filled with quality connections that are relevant to your goals. You’ll definitely reap the benefits.