Stella Fayman, one of the founders of Entrepreneurs Unplugged recently wrote an interesting story of a LinkedIn request she didn’t accept. In “LinkedIn Request From the Past – Take It or Leave It,” Stella tells us about a woman she once tried to network with who treated her poorly recently sending her a LinkedIn request. Stella ultimately decided that this woman, who didn’t help her when she was a young professional, didn’t make the cut for her LinkedIn connections. And whether you agree with Stella’s decision or not, you’ve likely come into similar situations with your own LinkedIn connections.
What’s the right way to deal with a “blast from the past” on LinkedIn? Is it a social network, a professional network, a glorified business card holder, or something entirely different to you? We’ve compiled a list of the most frequent “blast from the past” LinkedIn requests and how to deal with them effectively.
- The high school/college/graduate school acquaintance you were never quite friends with. Maybe you were freshman cafeteria workers together, or had one class in common your first year in law school, but for whatever reason, this person years later has decided to add you on LinkedIn. Verdict:Go ahead, connect. If you had no ill feelings toward them then, you probably don’t now. And who knows who they might know in your field?
- The high school/college/graduate school friend you lost touch with years ago – on purpose. When you see the LinkedIn request, you think “Really?” Perhaps you cut them out of your circle for a reason, and if you did, the answer is clear. Verdict: Ignore. If you wouldn’t want to see them in person, don’t see them online.
- Family….or in-laws. It might make you cringe when your dad connects with you on LinkedIn – can’t you just see all of your colleagues saying “Oh, how cute, she’s connected to her dad!” Verdict: It’s complicated. You can’t very well ignore connections from your parents – but when it comes to extended family, we recommend sticking to those individuals who are A) in your industry B) in your city or C) someone you’re comfortable recommending professionally.
- The person you met briefly and barely remember. If you shook hands with someone at a networking event, some believe you’re fair game for LinkedIn requests. Others are more selective in choosing their connections. If you don’t know someone well, what do you do when that request comes up? Verdict: If you have good feelings about the person, go ahead and connect with them. If your feelings are mixed or unsure, perhaps you could invite that person to coffee to get to know them better before adding them to their circle. If your initial feelings were bad, trust your guy and hit the “Ignore” button.
- The stranger. It’s still a mystery to me why anyone would connect with someone they don’t know at all on LinkedIn. But it still happens. Joe Schmo from Company You Don’t Know sends you a request and you can’t quite tell if they’re a friend of a friend or just a random perso who found you online. Verdict: Don’t connect. Ever. With someone you don’t know. But this verdict has two exceptions. #1 – if someone writes an incredibly thoughtful introduction telling you why they want to connect with you. If this is the case, perhaps set a coffee meeting and then connect. #2 – Big wigs. C-suite peeps aren’t always great at LinkedIn, let’s face it. So if a big wig you don’t know personally connects with you, just connect. It might be a great opportunity to rub elbows with those at the top.
Ultimately, your LinkedIn choices are just that – choices. There aren’t right or wrong answers in every case. And ultimately, your LinkedIn can be a reflection on you. Just like you wouldn’t invite an embarrassing old flame to a networking event, don’t necessarily invite them to your LinkedIn connections. Conversely, though, if you’d be excited to meet someone in person, get excited to meet them on LinkedIn.