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Lessons from a LinkedIn lush: Why I regret becoming an open networker


One of the decisions I made when I joined LinkedIn was to become an “open networker.” I’m on a list that says I am open to connecting. Three years later and I have thousands of first-degree connections.

Now I kind of regret it.

I say “kind of” because there are pluses to being Miss Popular. I’ve expanded my list of contacts by the bucket load — with zero effort. That means I can easily research thousands, if not millions of people in my broader network.

The downside of being so social is that I’m now fair game.

Now when I login to LinkedIn I have hundreds of rubbish emails from people I don’t know.

Many of them have nothing to do with my web site (which I advertise heavily through networking).

People have assumed that since I’m an open networker that I want to hear about their bridge building business in Bulgaria or a great deal on grapes in Penang. If it sounds bizarre, it is. I am simply being spammed.

One of the few things I’ve learned from this avalanche of emails is how to stand out and make an impression.

I’ll look at how people communicate. Then I think about how to improve my own style. I’ll only open an email if it’s clever or targeted, short and snappy, or if the person sending it has said something interesting. And even then, I may not.

But with thousands of connections in my inbox, I can’t manage the masses. When I want to make contact on LinkedIn, it’s a challenge to find people whom I really care about.

I also wonder what other people think.

When head-hunters go hunting they say they look at the richness of your connections. I’m not sure if I look impressive or indiscriminate.

So what have I learned from all of this?

Follow my gut, because my gut never lies.

With my first login to LinkedIn, I hesitated about becoming an open networker, but I ignored all my instincts. At the time I had no reason not to do it. Now what I know from networking online is that the community influences the forum. One person behaves badly and badly becomes the norm.

I’m not a person who works a room and hands out my business card to 2,225 people, even at a professional networking event.

I prefer to chat to two or three people and get to know them. Open networking is that same spray can approach online. I’m not saying that’s wrong. I just don’t think that’s my natural style.

My networking style worked well for me one way offline. I should have approached it that same way online.

Feel free to disagree with me on this. Are you an open networker on LinkedIn? How have you used it to your advantage? Or do you have more regrets than useful contacts?

Karalyn Brown a is former HR and recruitment consultant who now dispenses job search “wisdom” on her blog InterviewIQ (where this article first appeared). A social media marketing fan, she spends much of her time building up her business through tweeting, targeting Google, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Image by Nan Palmero