LinkedIn Invitation Horror Stories: Sure-fire ways to Burn That Bridge


So now that you've already read my beginner's guide to LinkedIn, you're probably on your way to being a well-connected young professional. Fantastic! Go you! LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for staying in touch with professional contacts (in a way separate from facebook), and is great for participating in industry discussions, finding jobs, and connecting with great professionals.

Some people are awful at making connections, though. How do I know? I've experienced it first hand. Now, I know we all make mistakes, and I try to be generous with my benefit-of-the-doubt-doling, but that can only take you so far. 

Here are some ways to really mess up your first impression on a LinkedIn invitation:
  • Misspell the person's name (or even worse, forget to write it at all)
  • Not include how you know the person (or that you don't know the person)
  • Intentionally lie / mislead them.
In general, you need to write a personalized message and avoid sending out the generic default message that LinkedIn set up-- but I generally try to give people the benefit of the doubt, especially if I know and remember them, since LinkedIn's interface is kinda lousy at certain points and will make it hard to find the place to write a custom message-- and sometimes you'll think you're clicking a link that will take you to a custom message screen but it will just send the default message without even asking you! (LinkedIn is not without its flaws.)

Always try to write something to the effect of:

Hello {NAME} 
I had a great time at {EVENT WE MET AT} and would love to connect with you on LinkedIn 
or 
You had some really great input on {DISCUSSION/TWITTER CHAT WE INTERACTED IN} and I really loved your point on {POINT THEY MADE}. I would love to connect with you on LinkedIn. 
or 
I am really interested in what you do at {COMPANY} and would love to hear more about it. I have been in {RELATED INDUSTRY} for {YEARS} now and would love to connect with someone who excels in it the way you do.  
then 
{CLOSING}, {YOUR NAME}

Short, sweet, and to the point. Also try to avoid any presumption that someone will remember you and throw in a bit about how you know them, or indicate that you haven't actually physically met so they won't be scrambling to remember you and then come to the conclusion that you're trying to bamboozle them into letting you into their network and giving you access to all their contacts. 

Why am I telling you all of this? One: because I love you all, dear sweet readers, and I want you to avoid making a butthead of yourself whenever possible, because I know you're not really buttheads. Two: because someone sent me the most awkward LinkedIn invitation I have ever received in my entire life a few weeks ago. I just had to tell you about it. 


Context: I am better connected on LinkedIn than most people my age. I'm not the best connected, but especially given that my university is fairly small and is by no means located anywhere near a major metropolitan area, I'm doing pretty well. I also work to keep my network close and professional and full of people whom I esteem. I've broken 200 contacts on LinkedIn, so yes, I would say I'm doing pretty well for myself, especially given how many of them are professionals versus just having students at my university in my network.

Basically, I'm one of those girls that someone my age would see in the "People You May Know" list and then may immediately seek to ingratiate themselves with. LinkedIn works through levels of connection so if you are connected with a person who has a contact at a certain company, it is easier to contact someone at said company. In the little pond of people in my peer group, in my industry, and at my school, I'm a bit of a big fish (mind you, that's a very specific pond, I'm talking about, so of course I'd seem on the bigger end with it so little). 

So, the other week I got a LinkedIn request from a girl from my college who shall remain unnamed. This happens to me a lot. Usually I look in the invite to see if we've met somehow or have industries in common. I look at their profile to see what kind of experience they have to see if they have some cool stuff on there and generally want to connect or are just trying to get in my network. 

This girl sent me an invitation to connect. She used a default message (and the creepiest one I've ever seen which must come from some specific train of actions since I've only JUST been told this is a new default and I've NEVER seen it before). It didn't even ut my name in it. Anywhere. Sketchy. 

It read, "Because you are someone I trust, I would like to connect with you on LinkedIn"

I do not know her. I am sure I have never met this girl, ever. I mean, sorry, but no. "Because you are someone I trust" ?? This has the effect of someone coming up to me on the street in dirty clothes saying, "hey don't you remember? It's me, Freddy from high school! You remember me right? We had a great time at parties, didn't we? Say, could you spot me a couple hundred?"

I check out her profile. No clubs in common with me. No professional experiences in line with mine. Suspicions confirmed: this girl wants to use me to get at my network. Not okay. 

I looked her up on facebook. A mutual friend confirmed that I have never met her before. I have never seen this girl in my life. 

I gave her the benefit of the doubt, because I'm a giver, ya'll. The LinkedIn default was extremely creepy, and her profile and the fact that we had never met before made it seem like she was trying to play me, but I thought I'd at least give her a chance. I sent her a LinkedIn message, without accepting or deleting her request saying something along the lines of, "Hey ---, I just got your request to connect on LinkedIn, but I can't seem to remember when or where we met (my brain is probably fried from all the coffee I had today). Could you refresh my memory?"

Homegirl.

Never.

Even.

Replied.

Wow. Bridge officially burned. And while I will not publicly shame her and give out her name, you had best believe that she will not ever work with me. She not only was after me and my connections and tried to manipulate me, but she didn't even bother to respond when I gave her a change to clear herself in my eyes. Way to fail.

You know what, I get the hunger, I understand ambition, but what it takes to make great, worthwhile connections is being real with people, being genuine, being humble, and having gratitude and respect for people. She exhibited none of those things. I even gave her the benefit of the doubt even with her underhanded attempt to connect with me and she threw it away.

Guys, don't be like her. First impressions are important, yes, but the real key point here is to be real with people and show them some basic respect and don't insult their intelligence by lying to them. Not cool.

Check out more from my career development series.
Do any of you have any LinkedIn Horror Stories? I'm curious to hear if anyone else has ever been so affronted on the black and blue network. 


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4 comments:

  1. lol. Homegirl.

    Love this post. You are my LinkedIn role model! Your network is impressive, but you've worked so hard to get there. It's sad that people would try to take advantage of that without putting any effort in at all.

    My network's still pretty small, and I don't really have any horror stories. But there are definitely some requests that I'm sitting on because I cannot for the life of me figure out who these people are or how they know me...

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  2. I've had non-English speakers request me, and some creeper guys...

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  3. Needed this! I just started trying to touch up on my Linkedin page this week and I I messed up with a few of my contacts.Just changed up my approach and letting people know who I am, especially since I haven't set up a picture yet! -Tara

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  4. A bad intro can ruin a relationship! I also totally recommend getting on that photo ASAP! It makes you way more appealing to recruiters because you're not sporting a sketchy no-face in the search results.

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