should you connect with strangers on LinkedIn?

A reader writes:

I work in an industry that’s largely freelance, with a massive component of networking and word-of-mouth. But almost all of that networking is done in-person. As far as I know, I’ve never gotten a job or a useful contact out of LinkedIn because it’s just not really the way we work. Additionally, we have several networking websites that are similar to LinkedIn but just for this specific industry and I have pages on those as well.

On the industry-specific sites, I’ll accept almost any connection because it gives me a list of people by skill set with easy access to links to their work and experience. For years I’ve treated LinkedIn the same, but it’s starting to rankle me how many people who I’ve never met and know nothing about keep reaching out to connect there. I can’t recommend these people, I’ve never seen their work, and never met them. If I was approached for an introduction, I would feel uncomfortable providing it because they’re strangers. So part of me wants to just go through and purge every person who I’ve not met and personally worked with, because otherwise LinkedIn feels so useless.

Is there a hidden benefit to keeping these random “we’re in the same industry and maybe have a single contact in common” type of people? And going forward, should I start automatically rejecting these types of people?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Should you let candidates reschedule interviews?
  • Juggling a side business with a full-time job
  • Early morning client work when I’m several hours behind
  • My old manager asks for confidential information from our company

{ 91 comments… read them below }

  1. Bookworm*

    I always find it weird. I find LinkedIn weird in general. :P Personally I only accept connections if we know each other in some way but I know people will add everyone they’ve ever met.

    1. quill*

      I think that, like most social media, LinkedIn has reached such public saturation that the few people it would be a really useful tool for are drowned out in the general crowd.

      (Though I’ve always found it baffling that they STILL don’t give you an option to mass-delete your inbox!)

    2. Allie*

      I deleted my LinkedIn. I suppose if I was job hunting I might put it back, but honestly I just got a lot of strange connections and messages and way, way too many emails.

    3. Is it Friday yet?*

      I couldn’t read the article, so apologies if Alison covered this. Before I accept an invitation from someone I don’t know, I send them a message to ask why they’re looking to connect. This helps me weed out the people who want to sell me stuff, or have me refer my clients to them… All kinds of weird things. Then I just delete those requests. This lets me meet new clients who want to work with me, without having to let everyone into my network.

    4. tamarack and fireweed*

      I accept connections when they don’t look like spam and there’s some rationale to it. For example, I got some connection requests from junior people (grad students, early postdocs) in my sub-specialty who possibly found me from a publication or a talk I gave. Often these are people outside the large Western academic centers, and I’m happy to accept them. Sometimes the connection is followed by them contacting me about opportunities or with a question, and I may not be able to help. But that’s not a big imposition.

      I don’t treat LinkedIn as a social network as much as a professional networking site – I’m much more selective on my actual social apps.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Agreed. I have a license for one of LinkedIn’s Solutions – LinkedIn Recruiter – and it’s a decent research tool for talent and market mapping. In regular LI, I like that I can be found by my network or their connections, and also keep up with the news in my personal network. I think LI is viable when used appropriately. I’m not an Open Networker, but I don’t get too picky about adding people to my network. In corporate recruiting, it’s not unusual for a distant connection to be helpful in filling a role.

        Still, I think there’s LinkedIn Fatigue in many users. Too many people treat it like a social media platform, or they think networking is, ‘Hey, thanks for connecting, I want to sell you something!’ I ignore the memes and delete the spammers. Thankfully, that’s pretty rare, so I don’t have too many complaints.

    5. Smithy*

      In my sector, LinkedIn is really useful around job hunting. It’s been how I’ve been connected to the relevant recruiters in my sector, see who’s posting jobs, which jobs are actively recruiting vs more obvious internal hires, etc.

      To be quite blunt, if someone told me they were opposed to LinkedIn but wanted to break into my sector – the usefulness of my advice would sharply drop off. Sure there are other ways….but you’d be looking at a lot more work across a variety of sites and have zero idea who the people involved are.

      So when a complete stranger reaches out – if there are enough shared connections and similar places of employment, I have no problem adding them. And someone I shook hands with once at a conference? Definitely.

      How useful LinkedIn is I’m sure can vary widely across fields, but that’s certainly one reason why that mindset can exist.

  2. Amber T*

    For the west coast / east coast scheduling issues – definitely speak up! I’m east coast and when I started scheduling things, I wouldn’t take into consideration where the person was physically located or was flying in from. Even now, I’m way better, but sometimes that slips – recently I tried to schedule a 9:30am EST call, and one party pointed out they were in CA and asked if we could delay it a bit. Sometimes these details slip through the cracks – no shame in reminding people!

    1. LPUK*

      When I was in a global role, I did a spreadsheet showing all my major markets and time differences, and then I shaded all the boxes that were ‘reasonable’ times to do a call and kept it as a quick reference guide for any calls I scheduled – it made it easier to spot good timings dependent on which markets I was calling

      1. Nanani*

        There are free World Clock sites and apps that do this for you with minimal setup (like entering your relevant time zones).

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I like time and date dot com – as well as scheduling and time zones, it will calculate dates between (eg today’s date plus eight weeks) and other useful features. One of my most used bookmarks.

      2. sacados*

        Google Calendar also has some great features for this!
        a) You can add a second time zone to show along the left edge of the calendar, if there’s one particular time zone that you frequently deal with
        b) There’s a “world clock” widget where you can add as many time zones as you want, and if you click somewhere on the calendar to schedule a meeting, it displays the time in each of those places.

        SUPER SUPER helpful, in my last job there were times where I was setting things up with various combinations of East Coast, West Coast, Japan, London, India… that really saved my life.

        1. SarahKay*

          In Windows 10 you can also add two extra timezones of your choice to the clock on the taskbar, with your own description for them. Once set you just hover your mouse over the clock and a little window shows itself with the times in those zones. Move the mouse off and it tidies itself away again. No clicking needed and it doesn’t take the focus off whatever program / window you’re currently using.
          Just go to the “Date & time” settings option and click “Add clocks for different time zones” over on the right of the window.

          I work with people in India, which is 4.5 hours ahead of the UK, and that half hour did for me every time when trying to agree a time something would happen until I discovered this.

    2. JSPA*

      Pre-internet, my dad–on the west coast–regularly got up around 5 AM, and we had to be quiet during breakfast because he was watching the stock numbers come in from NY on the ticker at the bottom of the TV screen. He had no problem at all, on the occasions when he had to fly east, and take a breakfast meeting, because it was only slightly earlier than his normal schedule.

      If early meetings on the east coast are a big part of one’s work life, it’s a lot easier to shift your normal schedule, as it’s less painful to stay up a couple of hours later than normal for the occasional special event (or dinner meeting) than it is to wake up a few hours earlier. And it’s no more onerous now than it was for 30-some years, for my dad–especially as (instead of looking at a fuzzy ticker scrolling on a low-resolution B&W television), you could use that time to exercise, send emails, or get in to the office before traffic.

      1. Llama Llama*

        So, OP should change their whole lives to fit their job instead of asking not to start at 7am when they are occasionally on the east coast? I know you think getting up at 5am isn’t onerous because your dad did it for 30 years, and maybe you do it now but for some people that would be incredibly onerous and disrupt their entire life.

        1. SchuylerSeestra*

          Sometimes you do have to be flexible. I also work for an international company. I’m six hours behind by team. Occasionally I do have to be on before 8am to accommodate my team. Sometimes they have to be on until 7pm to accommodate me.

          In our case we set boundaries and communicate before scheduling during “off times”.

          1. alienor*

            I live on the West Coast and work with global teams, and the earliest I’ll go for a meeting is 6 am–for anything before that, I’m not available unless it’s literally the CEO. I want to be flexible, but at the end of the day I’m not getting paid enough to be on call around the clock.

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          And 7am seems ridiculous for a meeting start time even if no one is changing time zones!

          1. one more scientist*

            Yes, I would think 8 am for a meeting at the earliest. Even with Zoom meetings, I still need to get up and be awake for at least an hour or so before I can be productive and focus.

            There’s no way I would be getting up at 3 am for a 4 am meeting. Nope nope nope.

  3. Forrest*

    I am a university careers adviser and have literally 800+ people on my LinkedIn– obviously most of those aren’t active users. Benefits of a huge network:

    – you get to see what kind of activities people are taking part in– I pick up lots of seminars, webinars, conferences, workshops, competitions, internships and adverts by seeing people post about them (or people I know interacting with other people’s posts), and I can promote those back to my students.
    – it means my 2nd-level connections and 3rd-level connections are almost infinite. When I’m signed out of my account and showing a student how to use it for research, I sometimes say, “Oh, this person’s work history looks interesting, let’s have a look at that— oh, it’s locked so we can’t see it.” This almost *never* happens when I’m logged in, because my network is so huge that practically everyone in my country is a 2nd or 3rd level connection.

    So basically, I’m using it for information. If you’re using it in a more people-centric way, then yeah, having it limited to people you actually know probably makes more sense.

    1. NY LAWYER*

      I’d never thought of it that way and found your comment very informative. Thank you!

  4. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    As Forrest said, you can compile a great degree of knowledge and info with a wide network.

    So — it’s OK. I don’t have to reply to every connection request or ping for info.

  5. Casey*

    I’ve been using LinkedIn like 5 years now? It’s been awesome building a network for my industry- I’ve built relationships by commenting on, liking and sharing posts and articles. Over time I’ve become familiar with a ton of people I didn’t originally know. I have also gotten free invites to major conferences through my new connections, as well as people reaching out to me if they have job openings because I’ve caught their attention through the years I’ve been interacting with their posts- so when they have an opening they think of me. My industry ended up forming a number of groups and even podcasts on there, so we help each other out through boosting posts and articles, job postings, etc. Highly recommend honestly.

  6. Seeking Second Childhood*

    I must admit if someone was asking me for inappropriate information repeatedly after I said no… I’d probably send Alison’s very pointed email AND bcc myself at home. But then again I’ve read some pretty awful stories about people getting thrown under the bus by others.

    1. CmdrShepard*

      Does it make a difference between asking for the specific information vs general info?

      I know asking your previous employer/coworker “can you send me the full report/proposal that I prepared for Smith client” would not be okay.

      But would asking for general terms of the report/proposal be okay. If a person is trying to work on their resume so they person can say “worked on a report for that analyzed how office temperature correlated to employee production.” or “was part team that proposed mandatory feelings sharing that led to 50% increase in employee retention.”

      1. Anonymous Today*

        Why would they need that kind of general information? I suspect that’s the part they remember. They want the detail. Nope.

  7. Richard Hershberger*

    LW2: I am surprised by Alison’s response to the vagueness of the request to postpone. The alternative is to demand what may well be both private and irrelevant information, and then judge whether it is a good enough reason. This is exactly what we try to avoid with calling in sick. Why is a job interview any different?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Because the candidate’s wording — “something came up” — is vague and cavalier to the point of unprofessional in this context. It could mean “my friend wanted to go out to lunch.” Sick or family emergency would have been fine without providing more details. You wouldn’t call out of work during your first week (when you’re still an unknown quantity) by saying “something came up” either, for the same reasons. (In fact, I think we had a letter on exactly that recently.)

      1. Super Duper*

        Also, a job interview is by definition different than calling out sick from your job, because the employer has very limited experience with you, and you haven’t built up any trust or credibility. You’re still trying to make a good impression, and now you’re asking them for a favor that might be inconvenient. It’s really important to consider how that will look from the potential employer’s perspective. “Family emergency” or “illness” is fine, and if they refuse to reschedule or push for more details, then they’re a jerk. But there’s no need to tank your own candidacy on the principle of not wanting to give some basic reason for the request.

      2. BRR*

        I was thinking about how we just had this wording come up recently! There are a lot of other options that are vague but would work. I think for this letter/situation, the key things to include are apologizing for the last minute notice and including wording like “I was just notified about a time sensitive task. Would we be able to reschedule?”

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        What would be appropriate wording to say the same thing while maintaining privacy? Or, in light of vagueness being one of the critiques here, is the answer to give up on privacy?

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I’m not seeing a lot of space between “something came up” and “I have a family emergency.” A family emergency falls within the range of things coming up, and in practice a vague “family emergency” might mean anything or nothing. I suppose it is a matter of linguistic register more than semantic content.

            1. Renata Ricotta*

              I think labeling it as an “emergency” (family or otherwise) sends the message that the candidate realizes one should only try to move an interview for something that is a Big Deal. As the OP says, the phrasing as-is signaled the candidate wasn’t prioritizing the interview. People understand that even priorities need to get reshuffled for an emergency, but “something” doesn’t send the same message that the candidate realizes this is a professional norm and generally respects it.

            2. Anonymous Today*

              I am puzzled by this comment.

              I don’t think that being asked to lunch at the last minute by your BFF would fall under the definition of “emergency”, while having to drive your ailing mother to the Emergency Department certainly would.

            3. GraceRN*

              I think this is what Allison is referring to in the post by sense of professional norms and degree of polish. If a candidate cannot distinguish between how “family emergency” and “something came up” come across in a professional context, especially in an interview, it informs me that most likely, the candidate has a pretty poor sense of professional norms and a low degree of polish.

            4. RJ*

              I have to agree. While I agree that whether to reschedule depends on the strength of the candidate for convenience purposes, to say someone is being “cavalier” by saying something came up is just an example of the power structure between candidates and hiring managers. If the hiring manager was the one rescheduling, no one would bat an eye if they said “something came up and I need to reschedule”.

              1. RJ*

                The threading makes it a little unclear – I mean that I am agreeing with Richard Hershberger.

              2. Distracted Librarian*

                Actually, I very much would bat an eye if a hiring manager did that. I’d assume the manager or the organization didn’t prioritize hiring (and therefore is unlikely to prioritize employees) and/or had a poor sense of professional norms. Either way, not someone I’d be excited to work for.

                I’m a hiring manager, and I treat interviews as extremely high priorities. They are high-stakes for candidates (and for organizations, though too many hiring managers forget that), and I would never reschedule one unless an emergency arose. And if there was an emergency, I’d apologize profusely and let the candidate know it was, indeed, an emergency.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          We had something happen similarly recently at the office I work at (constantly open posting for certain positions because most people apply for promotions at about the nine month mark and get them). The candidate needed to reschedule and went with one of Alison’s proposed alternatives: “apologies for the late notice, but I’m sick and not able to make the interview. Is it possible to reschedule to next week?”

          (For the record by boss offered to either do the interview virtually two days later, or they had one slot four days later that they could again do virtually if that was better. It was the extent of how far they could reschedule the interview and keep it in the same block of candidates.)

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          Saying that you’re sick or having a family emergency isn’t any violation of privacy, only detailing what you’re sick with or what the emergency is would be.

      4. latticedfence*

        Alison, I respectfully disagree: there are plenty of hiring managers and/or potential employers who take that sort of information and weaponise it (either “this person is a problem employee and we cannot hire them – how dare they get sick or have family members!” or use it to torment the employee later if they are the one who is hired by guilting them into working harder, etc).

        The candidate could also just not want to appear like someone with problems, either due to a previous toxic employer, difficult upbringing, etc. But the candidate emailing the night before, requesting a reschedule, indicates that it is likely an actual emergency or problem of some sort.

        We also have no idea as to what the job on offer is, nor as to if the candidate was offered any real choice or flexibility regarding interview times. I think most people have come across at least one employer who is overly rigid on interview time slots, leaving candidates pressured to accept times that really don’t suit them, leaving an obvious risk that they may need to reschedule.

        Unless someone is rescheduling multiple times for trivial reasons, and at the last minute, I really don’t see an actual problem beyond an inconvenience, especially if she – as Alison says – is a good candidate.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          there are plenty of hiring managers and/or potential employers who take that sort of information and weaponise it (either “this person is a problem employee and we cannot hire them – how dare they get sick or have family members!” or use it to torment the employee later if they are the one who is hired by guilting them into working harder, etc)

          That is quite a stretch. Not saying those managers don’t exist, but you are FAR more likely to encounter a hiring manager like the OP who would prefer some context for the rescheduling (just basic context, not the nitty gritty details).

          Also, if that IS how a hiring manager would react to you giving “family emergency” or “sick” as a reason for needing to reschedule, that’s really all the more reason to go ahead and say it. It will let you know who you’re potentially going to be working under, and do you really want to accept a job with a hiring manger who is going to say “this person is a problem employee and we cannot hire them – how dare they get sick or have family members!” if you have an emergency?

    2. tamarack and fireweed*

      I don’t think that the job interview *is* all that different. I wouldn’t provide, or expect, any more details when rescheduling a job interview (or asking to) compared to when calling in sick at my job. But I would activate social conventions around being an applicant (that is, in a somewhat subordinate/weaker/lower-on-the-ranking role) when making a request from those I want something from.

      Hiring teams *should* be accommodating with candidates when the hazards of life strike! An employer who gets all judgy about a candidate asking to reschedule because of illness, family emergency, natural hazard (fire, flood, …), infrastructure breakdown (large power outage) etc. only shines an unfavorable light on their own company culture. But it’s the candidate’s job to clearly communicate that this *is* such an event and that if it wasn’t serious they wouldn’t have called. “Something came up” doesn’t communicate this. You use “something came up” for fairly low-priority situations where two people are flexible with rescheduling. Like meeting up with a friend and then hearing there’s a yard sale that you’d rather attend. So you reschedule the friend. Fine! But with an employer at least I’d use language like “I’m very sorry, but I just found out I have a conflict. It’s something I can’t easily move and that really needs to be taken care of now. Would it be possible to reschedule?” I’ve used language like this with no repercussions.

      Of course, where it gets a bit iffy is that some perfectly fine candidates haven’t been taught this, and that as an employer with a job opening you aren’t in a position to mentor/teach the candidate the norms of interacting right there and then. So with a particularly inexperienced / out-of-circuit and/or desirable candidate, I’d still accommodate them and take a look. But there would be a question mark about their prioritization.

      1. latticedfence*

        I completely agree with you on every point, including that the candidate could certainly have phrased the “something came up” better. But, as has also been noted by another commenter above, this is really just a question of semantics and linguistics. Reschedule the interview and give the candidate a fair go.

        As a side note, I’ve also noticed – including during my years as a manager and as someone responsible for recruitment (particularly for the more specialist or project-specific roles I’ve hired for) – that the companies that take an inflexible approach to hiring, like not wanting to move interview times, also tend to be the ones which complain that they “can’t find the right candidates”. Instead of looking into how they could do thing better and improving their hiring processes, they then tend to start complaining about non-existent “skills shortages”. It’s infuriating.

  8. DAMitsDevon*

    I’ll accept some requests from strangers on LinkedIn, basically with the idea that we need to have at least one thing in common- so if they work in the same industry as me or are fellow alums or current students from my undergrad or grad school (especially grad school because I’m assuming we all work or want to work in the same field). If they have a note mentioning why they want to connect despite not knowing each other, even better.

    However, I don’t count having mutual connections as having something in common. That’s because a few years ago, I was getting almost daily requests from people who didn’t work in my industry or go to the same grad school I did, but was adding a bunch of people I went to grad school with to their network. And they gave no explanation for why they wanted to connect with me. It just seemed like they were trying to get as many connections as possible, and I don’t see how as someone who had recently graduated from school I’d be able to help someone with more work experience who works in a completely different field that I have no experience in.

  9. Copyright Economist*

    I don’t connect with anyone on social media until I know them. And LinkedIn is social media. There’s nothing to be gained by padding a friends list.

  10. JRR*

    The letter writer’s specific concern was that the candidate was not treating the interview as a high priority (and by extension wouldn’t treat the job as a high priority). That’s a reasonable concern, and it remains an unanswered question if the candidate offers zero explanation.

    If they would only say it’s a family emergency, they’re sick, or they have a work commitment, that wouldn’t reveal any private information, but it would assure LW that the candidate isn’t blowing off the interview for a trivial reason.

    1. latticedfence*

      Yes, but the candidate may also not be wanting to share that level of personal detail with a potential employer, especially if she has been burned by other employers, or potential employers, dealt with a toxic workplace, told she was overdramatic, etc. Unless the candidate has needed to rescheduled multiple times for a trivial reason, this really isn’t a problem.

      1. Allonge*

        OK but neither it’s a family emergency, nor I am sick, nor I have a work commitment is personal if you don’t go into more detail. All it tells people is the candidate is human, which would be the default assumption anyway.

        1. wanna*

          I’m always happy for the people who have always had such good luck in their careers, in that they’ve obviously never come across an employer or manager, including a potential one, who uses any flicker of human frailty against them, whether right away or later on.

          I’ve hired a lot of people for a lot of different roles over a lot of years. Someone requesting a reschedule of a job interview the night before basically always designates “emergency”, no matter how the person may phrase it, particularly in what was likely a moment of some stress. For the interviewer to split hairs over the person’s use of language in that reschedule request, and to assume that it means the interviewee is not dedicated to finding a job, is drawing a very long bow.

          Personally, I’d love to know what the role/industry being hired for is, and how much choice the interviewee was given in the first place for the interview time.

          1. RJ*

            ^ This. In my experience from both sides, employers are much more likely to be cavalier than candidates.

  11. Pikachu*

    I regret connecting with strangers on linkedin. The amount of personal stuff people post on there drowns out any useful content. Just today, I’ve seen a wedding anniversary announcement, a video of a dog doing dog things, a video of little kids doing little kid things, a “greetings from maternity leave!” photo of someone with their baby, and to top it all off… a “recruitment” message from a multi-level marketing company.

    I hide them from my feed, and at some point I’ll get around to removing all those connections, but it is all enough to make me not want to use linkedin at all. Save it for Facebook.

    1. The OP*

      This is part of why all the random strangers started to bother me. As LinkedIn was adding all these features about sharing info and making posts and leaning more and more into being a social network, I couldn’t find or see anything useful at all in the noise. For me it was almost entirely “look at this interesting random article that I’m only sharing because somebody told me I should share X things a day” or sketchy looking business opportunities.

      Or trying to sell coaching services.

    2. tamarack and fireweed*

      I think this goes under “we all use LinkedIn differently”. If I was spending any time on the site I’d probably feel like you. But I never look at my feed (it’s excruciatingly boring). I still appreciate it as a place to keep a version of my professional ID and a network.

  12. DivineMissL*

    I have very few LinkedIn connections as I only link with people I know personally, or have at least conducted some business with. I had a random LinkedIn request yesterday from a gentleman who is an airline pilot (I have no connection to aviation) and lives 3500 miles away from me. I suspect this is one of those catfishing profiles that I hear about on Dr. Phil, where they prey on women in my age bracket. I’m tempted to accept the connection, just to see what happens – but also I can’t be bothered.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Yes, I’ve gotten those weird catfishing profiles. I can tell right away now.
      They are almost always saying they are: Pilots, deployed Military (oh so lonely), Oil Rig Workers (even more lonly), and Firefighters which I guess are somehow supposed to be attractive to our age bracket? LOL!

      Why does no one ever claim to be an astrophysicist, roboticist, or The Doctor? Hahaha.

      1. D3*

        I have gotten several from people with the profession “Surggeon Doctor” – all with the same misspelling.

  13. Sherm*

    A guy who I never met before wanted to connect on LinkedIn; I went ahead and accepted his request because we went to the same graduate program. I kind of regret it, because whenever LinkedIn announced my work anniversary, he would tell me “Congratulations!” There was something odd and awkward about a stranger congratulating me. Then, one day, I was walking down the hallway of my office building, and we ran into each other! He coincidentally joined my company. We recognized each other instantly, and he said “So, yeah, uh, I friended you on LinkedIn.” More awkwardness ensued.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Those work anniversary notes are system prompted/generated notifications. He just clicked on it, and probably does so for everyone he is connected with.

  14. PT*

    I hate Linkedin with a flaming passion. I made one years ago back when “everyone has to have a Linkedin.” Not once have I used it or needed it. It is just another way for some website to pester me with notifications.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I am indifferent to LinkedIn. I have an account that I rarely log into. I’m not seeing emails about it or requests to connect. Obviously I’m not job searching or anything.

      Whenever I do log in I think I should change my photo. I have blue hair in my LinkedIn profile and I haven’t had an unnatural color in 3 or 4 years. But I havent bothered with it.

    2. JRR*

      I made a LinkedIn account 10 years ago, which I’ve found useful only once: when I wanted to contact a former coworker for whom I didn’t have an email address or phone number.

      Unfortunately, the reverse function probably wouldn’t work since I rarely check my inbox–any message to me might go unnoticed for months.

    3. turquoisecow*

      My dad convinced me to get one and he was my first connection. I go in about once or twice a year and accept and delete various friend requests and then ignore it for at least 6 more months. Once in a great while someone I actually know and have worked with will connect with me and I’ll accept, but for the most part I know all those people now, and the only requests are from distant strangers.

      A company I used to work for went bankrupt and all of us went on connection sprees and quite a number of people I barely knew endorsed me for skills I did not have. I think it was around then I confirmed my belief in its uselessness.

  15. GS*

    I hate, hate, hate the random connections. My previous role was recruiting college students – except I was recruiting for a program that hired around 1.5% of applicants. Ask me a question directly, don’t just be like hi I want to work here. It drives me even crazier now when people add me even though I am no longer in a role related to hiring.

    Come up with a meaningful reason to reach out to someone. Don’t just blindly add people at the company you’re interested in. What is it actually accomplishing to send the bland “I’d like to join your network.”

    This is a sidestep from the actual question but I want to shriek every time I receive a random add. There is no benefit to strangers in my network. I keep trying to find a way to easily weed out the list of people in my network.

    1. The OP*

      That’s basically how I felt, though most of the adds I was getting at the time were people who were like “hey, we’re both freelancing in the same industry, we should be connected!”

      Not that they _ever_ wrote any kind of note, it was just the generic “I’d like to join your network.”

      But I wasn’t affiliated with a company at all. I’ve since changed industries and now I _am_ affiliated with a company and I actually get less random strangers, thank goodness. But I still cringe every time I get one.

  16. JT*

    I started a side business (virtual escape rooms) during the pandemic and ended up getting a good amount of business through my boss and coworkers. Besides what Alison said, if someone emailed my work email I’d forward it to my personal and respond from there.

  17. Filosofickle*

    I accept them if I feel like there’s a strong commonality, otherwise likely not.

    To try to nudge them into being actual relationships OR screen out the unhelpful ones, a LI power user gave me this tip: If you get a blind request with no note / reason, write them back and say something like “Hi! Thanks for reaching out. I see we’re connected through XYZ, but I don’t believe we’ve met before. Please correct me if I’m wrong! I’d love to hear what you have in mind for how we might help each other.” At this point, 90% will drop off. If they do, great, they weren’t going to be helpful network assets anyway. And if they write back, you’ve actually started a conversation which is the point of networking and social media.

    1. Mimmy*

      I really like your strategy! I rarely log into my LI profile but I do still occasionally get connection requests from people I don’t know. If I see zero reason for me to connect with the person, I’ll ignore. But I may try your strategy for ones that might be worth looking into.

  18. Former Retail Lifer*

    I don’t see any harm in adding strangers to LinkedIn but LikedIn has been virtually useless to me so far. I don’t mind adding people in my industry or people who are vendors to my industry because it could be helpful later, but…it hasn’t been yet. If someone gets too annoying, I’ll delete them. So far, the only person I’ve had to delete was some guy who kept trying to recruit me into his “financial services” company.

    1. The OP*

      This has been my experience with it even in the time since I wrote the original letter. I thought “hey, expanding network, what’s the harm” but it did (and has done) literally nothing for me. I’m seeing very little ROI for even spending time on the site at all. Since I wrote the letter I’ve switched to a new industry, and they are frequently going on about how useful LinkedIn is and I just…still don’t see it.

  19. Elizabeth West*

    I’ve run into a similar issue with #3 in interviews. People have a very skewed idea of what being a writer means, particularly when it’s creative writing. I try to head it off at the pass by framing it as a side gig that I’ve done outside full-time work for a long time.

    The best way to ensure my boss knows I’m focusing on work is just to not talk about it very much unless I’m off the clock. If coworkers ask, I give a brief rundown. I don’t like to discuss it with non-writers, because some of the stuff they say is so incredibly misinformed it makes me gnash my teeth. *insert Robert Downey Jr. epic eyeroll gif here*

    I also refrain from mixing work with social media—I don’t friend coworkers or talk about the day job on Facebook or Twitter. Although my indie press is on my LinkedIn page, I don’t usually spend much time there unless I’m job hunting.

    1. JRR*

      In professional settings, I recently switched to using a different version of my first name (like Geoffrey rather than Jeff) because anyone googling the Jeff version of my name would think I was primarily a musician rather than a tech writer.

  20. Jack Straw*

    As someone who’s had a decent side-gig for over 10 years, my advice is to be proactive about communicating with your boss and coworkers. Especially if the Side Job involves a bunch of social media.

    If you’re scheduling social media posts for Side Job to go up throughout the week, try to schedule them for outside of Main Job working hours. If you can’t or the timing isn’t ideal based on the spikes of page interactions for Side Job, absolutely let the people at Main Job know that these are *scheduled* posts.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      This is a good point, since otherwise it looks like you’re tweeting from your phone during work hours.

  21. MissDisplaced*

    I’m a Marcom manager in a niche area and I see this as being a big part of my job because it builds the top of the funnel and the dark funnel audience.

    That being said, I have had some weird and strange people connect with me on LinkedIn! Who knew some unscrupulous people seem to think LI is a dating or catfishing site? After getting a couple of these weirdo connections, I’ve learned to check out requests from strangers a little more thoroughly. If they work in my field or are in fields or groups or others I follow, I will connect even if I don’t know them. This does sometimes lead to sales pitches, but I am ok with that as long as they a) state what they’re selling upfront, and b) stop if you say you’re not interested/not the right person. If they try to initiate weird chatty convos or get sales pushy, I block them.

    If you are not in marketing/sales or trying to build an audience for your side hustle, I can see how random stranger connection requests could be bothersome. You’re under no obligation to accept them though, so I guess I don’t understand why people are so upset about receiving them? Just ignore.

  22. Hiring Mgr*

    As others have said, there’s no one correct way to use LinkedIn – for me it’s a crucial part of my day to day work life, and besides that I got my last two jobs via LinkedIn. I’ll pretty much accept any request, other than obvious spam.
    But of course YMMV

    On the rescheduling, if all they said was “something came up” (a la Marcia Brady), then yes that’s a little casusal. Whether that’s a dealbreaker may more on the number and quality of candidates you have than the actual rescheduling

  23. The OP*

    Hilariously, the issue with LinkedIn has continued to be so annoying that I didn’t recognize this as my own letter until I was halfway through it because I was thinking “OMG, finally somebody else who is just as annoyed as I still am at this problem.”

    Though this feels utterly unimportant when it comes to giving an update, the long and short of it is that I started weeding out the contacts I had no material connection to. But it was such a long process to go through them and figure it out that I think I only got about halfway through my list before giving up again. I probably deleted about half the people I looked at, and it still didn’t seem to make a dent.

    I’ve changed industries, to one where LinkedIn is a much more prevalent thing, and I still don’t see how I’m getting much out of it. Partially because my “feed” is just full of randomness posted by random strangers that has no relevance or interest to me. But it also feels like to get any kind of real benefit out of the site I’d have to spend a ton of time on it, culling my list first sure, but then also posting things myself, interacting with posts, commenting, liking, scrolling through feeds and I just haven’t got that kind of time. So for now I just continue to log in once every three months to ignore all the requests I’ve gotten and delete a bunch of spam.

    I’m glad to see in the comments again that I’m not alone in hating this though!

  24. learnedthehardway*

    I’m a LinkedIn open networker (LION) and have been on the site for 15 years (I know – I was surprised it’s been in business that long, too!)

    For most people, I would say it makes sense to focus on your functional discipline and your industry, and your geographic area. Recruiters (both agency and corporate) use LinkedIn quite a lot, and it’s a good idea to have your network built before you need it, in any case (I can’t tell you how many times people who have suddenly been downsized have reached out to me to build their networks).

    It drives me nuts when people put personal stuff on LinkedIn – I’m good with people posting about their jobs, industry activity, and even congratulating their kids when they graduate, but I’m not a fan of anything beyond that.

    1. Forrest*

      As I’ve become a more and more regular user of LinkedIn, I’ve got kind of sickly fascinated by what goes viral on LinkedIn. The specific combination of vacuity and blandness is so compelling.

      “I usually try and keep things professional here, but today i just have to say that i think cancer / domestic. violence / something else which is pretty much universally agreed to be bad is bad.”

      “Once I hired someone without experience, and it wasn’t a disaster! More people should be like me. Agree?”

      “Here’s some grossly ableist inspo-porn.”

  25. Salad Daisy*

    #2 I have a friend who worked in the finance department of XYZ, a large high tech company. Due to some family issues, she decided to look for a part time job to earn extra money. She applied to work as an evening cashier at a local market and without thinking told them she was currently working at XYZ. They called XYZ to verify her employment and she was fired the following day. No conflict of interest, no overlapping hours, just the belief on the part of XYZ that employees should not have any outside employment.

  26. Nutritionist*

    On LI I’ll connect with strangers depending if we have mutual connections I actually know irl and we’re in the same field; I rarely post or interact with people on the site though so I’ll mostly ignore any weird messages that I get.

    It may not always have a lot of payoff but I like getting to know some faces in my field in a new way. I also just landed a dream role I would never have applied for on my own because of the qualifications they listed, because a recruiter contacted me about it directly, because I responded to a message from one of her colleagues four years ago and ended up in their candidate database. You never know what could happen!

  27. Deborah*

    I got my current job through LinkedIn and I contacted someone I used to know through LinkedIn so he could be a professional reference for me for that job. So it can be valuable. :) I had recently updated my information on LinkedIn because I was looking for jobs, and a recruiter who was looking for a candidate for a niche role saw that and contacted me to apply. I wouldn’t have seen or applied to the role otherwise.

    However, it didn’t have anything to do with connecting with strangers. The recruiter actually found me on LinkedIn and then, I’m not entirely sure how, but some system she had access to (maybe a different job board) gave her my phone number and she just called me.

  28. latticedfence*

    Regarding #2, I somewhat disagree with Alison on this as I’d lean pretty heavily toward the candidate not wanting to appear overdramatic or something else negative by not giving you, a potential employer, any details beyond “something came up”. She certainly could have phrased it in a different way, but it also doesn’t sound like it is costing you anything to reschedule the interview, other than perhaps your own preference for not rescheduling for any reason?

    She could indeed be asking to reschedule over something really minor, but it is more likely an intentionally vague covering of something more critically serious, such as her being jerked around by a current employer (maybe revoking the previously agreed upon time off that she needs to attend the interview, or her being offered an unexpected shift that she needs to take because she needs the money), a sick family member, another family emergency, a transport problem (such as a broken down car), a wardrobe malfunction (and she needs time to either repair the broken/ripped clothing, or get something else, both of which are devastating to someone on a tight budget), or needing to attend an emergency appointment.

    Having been in your exact shoes before, #2, I would advise just rescheduling the interview. Especially if there was little to no flexibility offered to candidates regarding interview times in the first place.

  29. Mophie*

    I know LinkedIn is very YMMV, but I find the network very valuable. Not only the 1st level connections, but the second and 3rd. Having a wide network, gives you access to many more opportunities.
    I literally just accepted an offer for a dream job. A literally life changing offer. I found it thru a second level connection. I absolutely would not have found it without LinkedIn.
    I won’t accept a request from someone I have no idea who they are. But if I met you once at a conference, I’ll accept it. If you’re connected to someone I actually do know, I’ll accept it. If you were on a conference call with me, I’ll accept it. The value is in the wide network.
    You have to deal with some dumb posts, but I find it worth it.

  30. catwhisperer*

    How do folks feel about a random person reaching out and requesting a referral to your company on LinkedIn? I work in Big Tech so it happens semi-regularly and my perspective is that it’s super unprofessional. I have literally no idea who the person is or what their skills are, so any referral I gave them would be dishonest.

    Also, what would folks do if you knew someone who did this was looking for a position on a team similar to yours when your team was about to hire a ton of people? I’m thinking about flagging to my manager as a red flag in case the person applies, because a lack of understanding of professional norms would be very detrimental in the position.

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