Open Networking: What’s Your Verdict?

When I joined LinkedIn during my job search, I did not yet have a large network of first-degree or second-degree contacts within my chosen industry and found it very challenging to reach any potential career stakeholders. I turned to open networking as sort of an experiment to see how it would serve me in my job search efforts by joining a couple LinkedIn groups for LIONs (a.k.a. LinkedIn Open Networkers).

As I gained more first-degree contacts, I gained more messaging access to them and their connections. As a result, I was able to set up a number of informational interviews, one of which led to an official interview and later the job offer for my current employment.

Therefore, I am very much a supporter of open networking; however, I realize that like all things, there are two sides which I believe should both be heard and considered.

To get the discussion going, I have reached out to several thought leaders to share their arguments for and against open networking.
FOR OPEN NETWORKING:

As an ardent proponent of “Open Networking,” I encourage it constantly in my work with clients and companies. According to research by Mark Granovetter cited in Herminia Ibarra’s excellent book “Working Identity” (page 120), over 80% of job leads come from people outside of our key contact list (the numbers are 17% from strong ties, 55% from weak ties and 28% from weakest ties). By the use of Open Networking, the LinkedIn individual increases the opportunity for serendipity. I recently had a client who, through keeping his network open, made contact with a previously unknown individual in Washington State who was able to connect him with an employment opportunity he had discovered in Northeast Philadelphia. He had NO idea of who this person was, yet through LinkedIn was able to identify that this person had a strong connection to a position he had found here on the East Coast!Barry Davis

I advise job seekers to become open networkers on LinkedIn because it increases their reach across the site. Without many connections, job seekers are limited to using InMail or group messages to contact other LinkedIn members in reference to their job searches. Open networking allows job hunters to reach out to recruiters and hiring managers to find out about openings or to follow up on posted positions. As a LinkedIn member, I had a person who was my first level connection ask me to forward a note to a hiring manager who was a connection of mine. I didn’t personally know the person who requested the favor, but I passed on the note without having to give a personal endorsement of the person. Most LinkedIn members are willing to help. As long as people reciprocate and are willing to help each other, being an open networker can benefit everyone.Cheryl Palmer

I am an executive recruiter in Manhattan, and have been one for close to seven years. I have been using LinkedIn since July 2007. As of this moment, I have just shy of 10,000 contacts. I would guess that of those 10,000, I am personally acquainted with 100. The rest are perfect strangers. However, LinkedIn is my primary source for announcing job openings. It has never failed me. Period. End of discussion. I find candidates through LinkedIn. I have placed people who I have found through LinkedIn. There are, to the best of my knowledge, no downsides to using LinkedIn as an open networker. Some people have raised concerns. The first seems to be that as an open networker, you are associating yourself with strangers. My response is that everyone knows that the vast majority of contacts are strangers. You will not be held responsible for your contacts. That said, if a contact has a strange picture I will look at his or her profile and decide whether or not to keep them. I am looking for highly professional individuals. By definition, “highly professional individuals” do not post provocative photos or content on their profiles. So the people I delete are not the people who I would ever want as candidates.Bruce Hurwitz

AGAINST OPEN NETWORKING:

Being a LinkedIn Open Networker is not a good idea. Why? Because who you publicly allow into your network reflects back on who you are. What does it say about you if you are linked to someone who posts inappropriate status updates? Who has conducted themselves in a “manner unbecoming” in the workplace? Who has been at the heart of a scandal of any sort? It does not say good things to a potential employer! In fact, I would think it would lead a recruiter to question your judgment. One of your top priorities during a job hunt should be to protect and put forth a positive, professional persona online and connecting with “just anyone” can easily throw that off-track. I’m not saying you need to have met, in person, everyone you connect with; however, you should have some knowledge of who they are, what they do, their reputation, etc.Robin Ferrier

If every LinkedIn user connected indiscriminately, the system would completely stop working, and people would abandon the platform. Can you think of any positive reason that people would check into a system where millions of people “connected” to thousands of other people that they had no relationship with? (and “connect” in this fashion is not the same as a twitter connection – they are separate platforms)Steve Tylock

The problem of being a Linkedin Open Networker is not the practice of encouraging connections that are unfamiliar. It is the unstructured nature of your resulting contacts and their lack of usefulness to your most important connections. The bell curve of members on LinkedIn is skewed toward service providers. As a LION, your connections will emulate that demographic and anyone who is connected to you will have their search results diluted by your unwieldy connections. This may result in your most important connections considering the removal of your profile as a direct connection. I am a proponent of being a LIHON, A Linkedin Handpicked Open Networker or a member that uses the ability to send messages for free to group members to handpick the most powerful connections, with or without a direct business experience. This will enhance the power of your profile and increase your credibility as a valuable Linkedin member.Brian Callahan

Personally, the whole concept of “open networking” is something I oppose. Now don’t get me wrong, every once in a while I will make a LinkedIn connection with someone outside of my network, but usually that’s done with a specific purpose and within a relevant context for the person whom I’m reaching out to. The more people you add to your network – whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter – the less attention you can focus on building relationships with each person in your network. I’m a believer that less is more. Rather than have thousands of meaningless connections, have a stronger, smaller network that knows you and will go to bat for you.Mario Schulzke< strong>

What are your thoughts? Are you for or against open networking? Why?

Has it hurt you or helped you?

Tell us your verdict!

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