Declining requests to connect because you “don’t know” other users? It’s time to reconsider.

LinkedIn isn’t a tell-all social media site (like Facebook, where you’re often judged by the quality of the company you keep).

Instead, think of the site as a massive, ongoing business networking meeting, where the more people you reach, the more exposure you’ll receive as a leader and executive job seeker. Online networking can be a boon for your executive job search – and the sooner you change your approach, the faster you could land a new job.

Here are 5 reasons to quit rejecting connection requests on LinkedIn, particularly if you’re in the market for a new leadership opportunity:

1 – You could miss out on valuable industry intel.

LinkedIn now contains more than 500 million user accounts. If you’re routinely turning down requests to connect, you’re missing out on a valuable resource for industry knowledge, current-event updates in your field, and peer contacts.

In fact, many of your executive colleagues are using social media to present themselves and their talents to recruiters, as well as to position themselves as thought leaders.

One of the best benefits of LinkedIn is competitive industry intelligence! By connecting to other users, you’ll be able to view status updates, articles, and posts showing career promotions, industry-related questions, and white papers of interest  in your field.

A caveat:  ensure new connections are authentic by clicking on the user’s photo to enlarge it, then right-click and select “Search Google for this image.” If you find the picture has been used in multiple LinkedIn Profiles with varying names, it’s best to report the Profile to LinkedIn as fake. Otherwise, it’s typically safe to accept the request.

Remember, LinkedIn keeps growing… adding millions of members each month and further expanding your opportunity to stay in touch with the right person for the right job. By ignoring new connections, you could be missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime.

2 – You run the risk of looking antiquated.

If you haven’t searched for a job in the past 5 to 10 years, you’re in for a surprise: social media has overtaken many phases of the job hunt, from initial connections to how candidates present employers with their qualifications.

While you can (and should) still follow up a job application with a phone call or even snail-mailed correspondence, many employers are receptive to receiving a short note of interest on LinkedIn. This is true whether they’re actually finding you on the site, or verifying your information after first receiving your resume.

And here’s the simple math:  You’ll have an easier time locating employer contacts if you’re more well-connected, since LinkedIn’s search algorithm relies heavily on your “degree of connectivity” to other users.

Plus, if it looks like you’re not a reasonably active user of social media (with at least 500 connections), hiring authorities might wonder how “current” your skills are and whether you’re staying on top of your field.

3 – You might lose the opportunity for a recruiter’s call.

Many prospective connections exist just on the other side of a recruiter – and that recruiter could be the one who’ll make a difference in landing your next job. LinkedIn is, essentially, a database that allows you to continually edge closer to important resources in your industry. Again, simple math applies here, with more connections leading to more relationships in the site’s burgeoning database.

Since recruiters use paid LinkedIn subscriptions to find and approach talented executive candidates, they’re constantly on the hunt for new leadership job seekers. By becoming more connected to influencers and leaders in your field, your Profile will more readily appear in employer searches on the site.

4 – You won’t be able to gauge your qualifications against competing candidates.

Admit it: one of the reasons you may be intrigued by social media is the opportunity to see what everyone else is doing. (This is certainly true of Facebook.) But if you refuse to participate in what many analysts call the most active site for job seekers, you might miss the chance to see how your credentials stack up against the competition.

Since many users of social media tend to overshare information online, you can gather valuable competitive intelligence from your new connections. Especially if you’re striking out in your job search, you’ll benefit from taking a look at peer candidate Profiles.

Here’s where much of LinkedIn’s value comes into play: if you’ve analyzed common career paths, education, job progression, and skills in your field, you’ll be better able to evaluate how you rank against other job seekers.

Perhaps you’re aiming too high in your job search, or you should be pursuing a different type of executive role. This information can be used to refine your search tactics, career goal, job search activity, and even your Profile information.

5 – Prospective connections could be employed in your target companies.

Even if you’re not familiar with a new connection, you could soon be in need of their assistance – especially if they’re in a hiring role. By graciously accepting a request to connect and even sending a quick thank-you note to your new contact, you could be cultivating a high-value resource of use either now, or at a later point in your career.

By watching your status feed on your LinkedIn home page, you’ll often see connections earning new positions and promotions. Consider that these contacts might be just one degree or two away from hiring managers at their respective companies. A user you reject today might even BECOME your new hiring manager at some point.

Keep these points in mind the next time a new LinkedIn connection request pops up.

Rather than immediately rejecting the invitation, you might reap significant rewards by accepting the opportunity to welcome a valuable new contact.

Executive Resume Writer

Need a competitive edge in your job search? As an award-winning executive resume writer, I create branded, powerful resumes and LinkedIn Profiles that position you as the #1 candidate.

My clients win interviews and top C-suite, EVP, VP, and Director positions at Fortune 500 firms, niche companies, start-ups, and emerging industry leaders, using powerhouse documents and executive job search techniques tailored to today’s job market.

Get in touch with me to experience the outstanding results I can bring to your transition.

– Laura Smith-Proulx, CCMC, CPRW, CPBA, TCCS, COPNS, CIC, CTTCC

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