You Wanna Network with Me????
Like everyone else, I get a steady stream of invites to join someone's networked on LinkedIn. Most of my invites come from people I had worked with, and I'm generally happy to hear from - and link to - them (even if the invite is disappointingly impersonal). Mostly, I'll drop the inviter a little "what are you up to" message, which will or will not translate into an exchange or even a lunch.
But every once in a while, I'll get a LinkedIn invitation from someone who I don't know at all. 99.99% of these come from Genuity alumni/ae. Genuity was, after Wang, the largest place I ever worked, and my tenure there was relatively recent (1999-2002). (Gotta love that word "tenure". As if your time in a corporation bears any resemblance whatsoever to academic tenure. And as if the economy had given Genuity any tenure. No, we were more like an adjunct instructor who never made it to the tenure track.)
In any case, the ex-Genuity club is my greatest source of invitations from people I don't know.
Yes, I know that these folks are just sending out blanket invites to everyone listing Genuity in their profile, but still...I'm really not interested in networking with anyone I don't know.
It's not as if I don't believe in networking. Most of my jobs, beginning with my boot polishing stint at H.H. Brown Shoe in Worcester, came through networking. Yes, I was able to nab some really nifty jobs on my own - waitress, store clerk, office temp - but, with one exception, my professional jobs have all come through networking. The one exception? Wang Labs, which remains the company which, as it turns out, was the place I worked where I was most ill-suited. And everyone of my consulting/freelance marketing gigs has come through networking.
I'm a believer.
But I really don't want to network with people I don't know.
Now, you don't need to be my best friend. I don't even have to have laid eyes on you. (I consider some of my blogosphere pals part of my network.) I just have to have some reason to know you, know what you're like, and trust that we're at least on a partial wavelength. And if I don't know you in some way, I'd consider adding you to my network if someone I do know vouched for you.
For the folks from Genuity who've asked to join my powerful and amazing network:
- How do you know I'm not a madwoman?
- How do you know I'm not incompetent?
- How do you know I'm not duplicitous?
- How do you know I'm not a bitch on wheels that everyone hated?
And, back at you: how do I know any of the above about you?
I don't. So I'm not gong to add you to my network - even one as passive and remote (at least the way I use it) as LinkedIn.
I really value my network. I value the people in it. They're people I know, like, trust, respect. They're people I can call with a question and get an answer. They're people who (I hope) are happy to get the call. Or see my name show up in their e-mail inbox.
And the same goes for them. When someone in my network (or in my network's network) comes looking for advice or looking for a lead, I take at least a few minutes to help them out. I look over resumes. Answer questions. Make a call. Make suggestions. Act as a reference. Connect people up. (I recently helped someone I've "met" through blogging get a freelance writing gig for part of the corporate blog run by a friend's company. R was just what J was looking for, and last I heard they were about to start working together.
So, sometimes things work out. Sometimes they don't. I have nothing to offer, my advice proves useless. Networks do have their blips.
Still wanna network with me?
Make sure I at least vaguely, kinda-sorta-useta know you. Or know someone who does.
And, P.S., the way to my networking heart is the personal touch, not the spam to everyone on the list.