LinkedIn and Stranger Danger: The risks and rewards of connecting with people you don’t know.


When you reach out to connect with a new person on LinkedIn, there is a warning printed at the bottom of the screen: “Important: Only invite people you know well and who know you.” But, why?

I am a complete supporter of networking via social media, so I do not necessarily condone only connecting with people you know.

There are definite perks to adding strangers to your professional network.

  1. Just like you never know who you’re going to meet in an airport, or on the bus, you don’t know who you will stumble upon virtually either. The stranger you connect with could be your next boss, or your next star employee. He/She could be your next big sale, or could provide you with a service you’ve needed.
  2. Connecting with strangers allows you to also connect with their network. The strangers you connect with could be a window of opportunity for you to reach out to your dream company. They could introduce you to their hiring manager and get you a job. That stranger could increase your technical network and allow you to reach out to those that have the answers to an unsolvable problem you may have. They can get you steps closer to your next big sale, your next big career, or your next big hire.
  3. But what about those pesky recruiters? I may be providing a bit of a bias opinion, but recruiters are probably the most frequent offender to LinkedIn’s “Stranger Danger Protocol”. And most of the time, it works out for them. There is nothing wrong with entertaining the network connection of a recruiter. Some will pester you more than you’d like, but some will provide you with opportunities you never knew were out there. If you’re hesitant to connect with recruiters, proceed with caution, but remember that recruiters typically have the biggest network of industry professionals and hiring managers.

As a child you were taught not to talk to strangers. Personally, I made a profession out of doing so. But as with all social media, there are certain risks associated with connecting with people you don’t know.

  1. Not all people have good intentions. I’d be lying if I said I never had to kick anyone out of my professional network. You will come across those folks who post unrelated material multiple times a day. You will also run into people who will try to get information out of you. Those are the people that you should discontinue relationships with.
  2. My boss will think I’m job hunting. If you connect with multiple recruiters and hiring managers on LinkedIn, there is the chance that it will be assumed that you are job hunting. Maintain a networking initiative. Connect with industry professionals, ask for recommendations, and let the recruiters come to you. If this becomes a concern for you, do not use LinkedIn while at work.
  3. The internet footprint. Once you have a LinkedIn profile, it will show up in a Google search for your name. If you are worried about information security, be sure to keep personal contact information OFF of your profile.

Are the risks worth the reward? Absolutely. But take precautions to ensure your information is secure, and screen connections thoroughly.

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