If you accept every single LinkedIn invitation you receive, you’re eventually going to have quite a filing problem. But if you’re too selective, you might miss out on valuable connections, as well as the good career karma that comes with helping other people. So how can you determine which invitations are worth accepting?
“To use LinkedIn to its fullest potential, you need to tap its power as an introduction machine: an address book in which all the entries can see and connect with another, to create a mini-network with you and the things you share at the hub,” writes Alexandra Samuel at HBR Blog Network. “But that introduction machine only works if you are selective about which connections you initiate and accept.”
To be more selective, Samuel suggests submitting each invitation to what she calls “the favor test.” Before accepting, she says, you should ask yourself whether you would ask a favor of this person or do a favor for them in return. The favors don’t need to be confined to business introductions that lead to jobs for one or both of you. If you would support this person’s charity, visit their gallery show, or write a blurb for their latest book, that’s a connection that’s worthwhile.
Ideally, the favor test results in LinkedIn connections that flow both ways, improving the lives of the people at either end of the chain and all the people they touch in between. In other words, real networking, not just banking “friends” for the sake of ginning up the numbers.
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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt writes about work-life balance, stress management, and other topics relating to what makes us happy at work. A full-time freelancer, she deals with stress by blurring the lines between life and work to the point where the two spheres are barely separate. The happiest day of her career was when scientists proved that looking at pictures of cute animals makes us more productive.