I have a confession to make…I’ve acting like the back-end of a horse lately.
There. I said it.
What prompted this admission? Well, other than I really was acting like the business end of a horse, I feel really bad. Horrible, in fact. I thought I understood the rules of engagement social media fairly well, but it turns out that in one respect, I was the one behaving badly.
So here’s the story:
As an early adopter of many social media platforms, I have built a fairly robust network over the past years, especially on LinkedIn. But I was stuck on remaining a closed networker, and getting frustrated by an ever-increasing number of requests to connect from people I didn’t know.
As a career management coach and frequent speaker, I’ve always told my clients and audience to include a personalized message to people when asking to connect – after all, I would love to hear how I could help them. But my patience was wearing thin with people I’ve never met before indicating that they were a ‘Friend’ (how on earth did they decide that?) while only including the standard default greeting: “I would like to add you to my LinkedIn network.” What? I didn’t want to be simply ‘collected’ as another notch on someone else’s belt!
What really irked me was that while I do consider myself in general to be a friendly person, I was offended that people who did not know me said I was their friend, and to me, that seemed to be stretching the truth.
And so, bent on a path of educating people, I started telling them that.
Ouch. That goes into the #Fail file…
I got roundly chastised by someone who actually took the time to respond – which got me thinking… SHOULD I be connecting to everyone who reaches out to me… even if they use the default greeting? And as it turns out, oftentimes, there isn’t any other way to indicate a connection to someone except as a ‘Friend’ – so these requests might not be so much purposeful misrepresentations than limitations imposed by LinkedIn.
So I reached out to my resume writing colleagues and asked them for a reality check… is it best to be closed or open networker? The response was unanimous: Be an open networker! In fact, one of my friends, Julie Walraven of Design Resumes, wrote a blog post about my inquiry… and lined out a very clear case of the advantages of being open to networking with anyone.
Shocked, I realized with absolute horror that I have been effectively slamming the door in people’s faces.
I am going to try and send a note to those folks that I was closed off to – I don’t expect much of a response, if any. The damage is already done. But what I will do is be an open networker from this point forward and accept any and all requests that I get.
As one resume writer pointed out, being connected is a starting point for the person to get to know you better. And if you get a request from someone you aren’t that familiar with in your network, take the time to schedule coffee or a phone call with them to build rapport before passing on their request.
My lesson learned: open the door as much as possible; it’s when you slam the door shut that you actually are shutting yourself off. Very powerful lesson indeed.