I’ve given up hope of trusting my network

I had hoped that LinkedIn would actually be a trusted network of friends and associates. I think they still advertise it as just that. I am revising my opinion. I still want a trusted network, but given the following facts:

1) I know the people I trust so if I need a trust-worthy opinion, I can contact them directly. I know how to reach them.

2) Many of these people have other people in their networks that they don't know. And by leveraging those people's networks, the chain of trust is broken.


3) I still value being able to reach people that I don't know enough to trust...

I am now officially an open networker on LinkedIn. So my opinion on LinkedIn not being a trusted network still stands, but I am not going to count on it to be that any more. 

I'll be changing my profile to show that I am an open networker. And I am partly telling you this so you can connect with me on LinkedIn if you want to. And partly because I don't want someone seeing my profile on LinkedIn and totally calling me on what I said about it before. I'm being pre-emptive. And I'm saying that if you have stuck around here long enough to read all this stuff that I write, you will surely be rewarded to the full access of my network, up to three degrees, if you so wish. Amen.


Comments (16)

  1. Burg says:

    I hope I didnt have something to do with your sudden change of heart.  LOL.

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Haha, no. I logged on to surrender to LinkedIn. And approved all the friend requests I had sitting there, including yours. But consider yourself the first connection in the era of linking like it’s my job 🙂

  3. I think I’ve been around *almost* since the beginning of this blog! 🙂

    I just had to double check that you were in my LinkedIn network though! Here’s a question for you:

    How valuable do you feel LinkedIn recommendations are?

    I know every little helps, but do you think the difference between having/not having recommendations is negligible?

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yeah, Ian, I think you were! I know that you were still in college.

    I have mixed feelings about the recommendations (and not only because I lost some when I deleted my job at Microsoft to update it, rather than just making the chances. What can I say? I was having a dopey moment.

    I have seen so much self promoting and patting of friends on the back, that I do not trust recommendations. I have seen recommendations for people that I know were not doing a goos job. So they don’t mean much to me. But people are still seeking them out and writing them. So they must mean something to someone. I just don’t ask people to recommend me.

    So yeah, I think the difference is negligible.

  5. cbuck says:

    I agree that LinkedIn is not as trusted a network as we’d like, but it’s better than everything else. Aside from the annoying link requests from people who shouldn’t be asking, I apppreciate the model and the occasional contact request to my network — which I am very protective of. I scrutinize these requests, sometimes following up offline before approving, and try to provide hearty explanations when I do forward someone. Just the fact that this tool and workflows exists is fantastic. Useful enough that I can ignore the minor spam…

  6. Paul says:

    It’s a tough decision whether to keep the network open or trusted.  There are merits to both points of view.

    In your case, I think it probably is part of your job to be a professional linker. I’ve chosen the opposite, and wondered a few times if it was the right thing to do (I get random invitations to join networks from people I’ve never heard of regularly, and then wonder, why would I care to connect to someone in the Netherlands that I don’t know, have never spoken to, have never read their blog or exchanged emails with, don’t have anything in common with — it just adds clutter.  I’ve also observed the opposite — that some of my most valuable interactions and connections with people come unexpectedly from people I didn’t previously know.

    As LinkedIn has added applications, it’s become a lot more valuable to me. In particular, the blog linking/social media tracking function, which allows me to keep up on what people like you are doing without having to subscribe to dozens of blogs.  Because everyone in my network is someone who I’ve had contact with and who’s opinion I respect, and LinkedIn sends me updates with news links and updates on new blog posts, it’s become effortless to keep abreast of the people I follow. If I had hundreds or thousands of random connections, this value would disappear quickly.  (It’s how I ended up here today, btw.)

    Although my original reason for staying closed was that I wanted to feel comfortable that if anyone in my network asked me to connect them with anyone else, I would trust the person asking well enough to say yes and recommend why the person receiving the request should take it (and I still feel that way), the social group and network updates are the most valuable things I get from it now.

    But I totally get why you would go LION, despite previous statements that you wouldn’t.  The world changes.  I wonder if your conflict with doing so previously had more to do with your personality than with your networking needs?  I’ve wondered that about myself too. I wonder if not going LION restricts the visibility of my own social meanderings.

    btw, to Ian’s question, I don’t trust most recommendations, although I do read them.  Thoughtful ones that say something personal and genuine carry more weight with me, because they don’t feel like two people exchanged meaningless generic endorsements as a tit for tat thing to build up their recommendation total. I don’t like that LinkedIn counts your recommendations as if it was a badge of credibility — often to me, it’s just the opposite.  Most people who have dozens of recommendations solicited them, and did a quid pro quo. That they went begging for empty praise says to me they have less credibility than if they earned them the old-fashioned way.

  7. --Lisa says:

    It’s interesting, isn’t it? There isn’t anyone on my network I haven’t worked with, except a few recruiters.  And there-in is the issue.  Do I open up farther and possibly link to people who might help me find something wonderful and elusive or do I maintain it as a trusted network?  Considering how many "pass it on" requests I get from people who are at least 3rd degree (and who I’ve never met), I am not sure of the value of keeping it closed myself. It is something I am still contemplating.

  8. Burg says:

    RE: recomendations.

    With an understanding that I am a bit of a linked in slut, I actually declined to put a recomendation up on my profile from a guy who tried to give me this very random recomendation so that I would interview him.  Not.  

    I will take and post recomendations and give them when I feel that they are warrented… I dont put a ton of credence in them, but use them as a data point.

  9. HeatherLeigh says:

    cbuck – that’s because you are a people person. 🙂

    Paul – great points. I haven’t yet gotten into the SN functions, aside from installing the blog ap the other day. I’m kind of thinking about LI as a companion to FB, where FB friends are the people I know and want to tell about what is going on  today and LI being the people I know professionally and may want to get in touch with (either them or their networks), in case I need to find someone who knows about x. I’m actually not a recruiter anymore (though I work in staffing), so I am not in it personally to find job prospects. But I like the idea of being able to leverage knowedge across the network if I need to.

    And you are right that my previous conflict has to do with my personality. Honestly and credibility are very important to me. So at that time, to connect with someone that I didn’t know felt wrong to me. Now as things have changed, I don’t feel there is the expectation that I actaully have a relationship with all the people in my network. I just top-linked this week and holy cow.

    Lisa – I’m willing to share my feedback as I go through  this process.

    Burg – agreed!

  10. RB says:

    Facebook is bad enough. LinkedIn is garbage. Do you really want to be that available? It seems like a last resort for people who are desperate for work. You’re not leaving MS, are you Heather?

  11. HeatherLeigh says:

    Sure, I want to be that available. I don’t see the world through the negative filter that you do, RB. I’m not sure what you need, dude, but I suggest you get it soon, because you are a downer.

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    Sure, I want to be that available. I don’t see the world through the negative filter that you do, RB. I’m not sure what you need, dude, but I suggest you get it soon, because you are a downer.

  13. Wine-oh says:

    I like LinkedIn for the fact that I can check out a company/prospective boss and team ahead of an interview. I do not however participate in the recommendation portion. If anyone asks to write a recommendation, they should only write it if you have great things to say and back it up. I only have 1 recommendation from a co-worker from many years ago, and I don’t think I have written one for anyone. I am suspicious of profiles that have tons of them. Makes it sound like the person is perfect, almost too perfect. When I interview for a job I have my list handy of people who can give me a good recommendation and I contact them when I know I am in the running for the job so they aren’t caught off guard.

    I often wonder if recruiters look at LinkedIn and make decisions based on someones profile there and how many recommendations might be there.

    Overall its a useful site, but I wouldn’t vouch for all the features. Also I’d be nervous being a open networker as I would fear the amount of emails it would generate.

  14. Bad_Brad says:

    But Heather, on the recommendations, how are they any different from recommendations that you would see outside of LinkedIn?  If anything, I’d say LinkedIn recommendations are better because there is at least a technology control in place, i.e. the other person has to log in and write the recommendation.  I could hand a recruiter a paper recommendation with a former manager or colleague’s name on it that I wrote.

    I would like to see LinkedIn add a feature which would allow you to categorize your network connections.  I would like to see at least the following categories:

    Direct manager

    Indirect manager


    Business partner

    Direct report

    Indirect report


    Personal friend

    As well as a sub-category within each of "current" and "former" (although former personal friend would be kind of harsh).

  15. HeatherLeigh says:

    Bad_Brad, I think they are different because (many) people on LinkedIn trade them like currency and because I have seen people write disingenuous recommendations just so the other person will reciprocate.  I’d rather call a "reference" where the person has to actually say these things, than rely on a LinkedIn recommendation where they can hide behind their online persona. Obviously, all of these things are dependent on the trustworthiness of the person making the recommendation, which in and of itself is an issue for me. But as someone who used to be a recruiter, I can say that I do want a few references checked, but really don’t care about the recommendations on LinkedIn. Ultimately, people are going to need to demonstrate their value as an employee during an interview (which is also an imperfect system). You are taking a risk with all of these things, but to me, the recommendations on LinkedIn mean almost nothing.

    Sorry. It’s just how I see it.

  16. DY says:

    LinkedIn, like many social networking sites is as valuable to an individual as their level of personal commitment to filter the requests to "friend" or "connect." Filter wisely and the value might be higher for everyone. I pass on many more than I ever accept, seems to work for me anyway. Facebook not so much for business.

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