A common joke nowadays is that the difference between networking and not working is just one letter.
I used to be relatively sceptical about the importance of LinkedIn for my career improvement until I moved to Sydney from Moscow about a year ago. In Russia LinkedIn is still not considered a useful tool for job seekers, as potential Russian employers would be more satisfied having a conversation with former employers rather than rely on information from the Internet.
In Australia, I see a ‘LinkedIn-mania’ among professionals. Everyone here talks about LinkedIn, thinks about LinkedIn and looks at your LinkedIn profile as soon as you get to know each other. Having just glanced at my LinkedIn page, a friend of mine immediately responded - you have no chance of using LinkedIn successfully unless you contact list is much longer (I have 82 connections). This makes me think: “What is LinkedIn really all about, and how does it work for professionals?”
Honestly I like LinkedIn since it enables me to keep track of my professional contacts in the cloud. However, I receive a lot of invitations and often cannot even figure out what the motivation for connecting is. The majority of these invitations appear to be meaningless and probably will never be converted into useful business opportunities. There is no doubt that LinkedIn makes business communication easier, but it could also make our network useless if the connections that we have are merely strangers. Does a sizable network provide the wrong impression: that quantity is equally important as quality. But let us look at our connection list from a practical angle: can we communicate with each of our connections in a business environment?
To what extent are these connections personal and thus to what extent they are valuable? In this case, the invitation process is a crucial step in gaining a connection. Even more, there should be an ethical standard where by when sending an invitation to a person, that you clearly state how you met or the purpose of why it would be valuable to connect. If this were the case, many people similar to me would be better off accepting invitations to connect rather than not even opening them at all.
However, I try to keep my connections down to those who I really know and I am comfortable with. I also frequently monitor my connection list and disconnect from those people I cannot recall.
This is why I am distrustful of those who get “over 500” connections. Have they just sent invitations to all their mail accounts (there is an easy tool in LinkedIn to assist with that)? Does this number of connections really mean business?
I have no doubt that the honest answer would be “no”.
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School