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October 20, 2014
Connectiquette: The Etiquette of Connections
Connectiquette is not a typo or a new state in the U.S. It refers to a process of thoughtful deliberation.
This age of the network and personal collaboration is bringing important benefits to people around the world. Technology has brought us all closer together, afforded the ability to create like communities, given voice to all and particularly to those who previously had no voice and enabled countless good deeds and beneficiaries. The proliferation of social collaboration platforms is making it easy to connect with long-lost friends and family, new friends, business colleagues, and other people who have similar interests, aspirations, and goals. And these same platforms have become crucial in job search and career management. We now have the ability and liberty to identify hiring managers and influencers that play significant roles in the hiring process.
But with all good things comes the idea of responsibility, taking care to be ethical and transparent about how we use technology to advance and effectively manage our careers and career goals. So in the spirit of being responsible, here are several recommendations on how to handle networking and connecting with people you feel can have an influence on your job search or career development.
Making the Ask:
  1. Typically only connect with people you know and who know you.
  2. If you want to connect with someone you have not met, ask for a referral from someone you know who does have a connection. Explain your rationale for wanting to link and make the ask. Also do not forget to offer to reciprocate.
  3. If you do not have any linkage to someone to whom you absolutely, positively must connect, do your research, strategize on your ask, compose a logical pitch, and make the ask. If your request is reasonable, logical, friendly, open, and you offer to return the courtesy, your chances of a connection are significantly higher than if you did not do your due diligence.
  4. One other technique to consider is a simple, yet thoughtful, handwritten letter of introduction that you send via snail mail to outline your background and mission in requesting to connect. Many times this technique will achieve the desired effect because it is different, offline, and in some circles, considered classy and unique. 
Considering the Ask
  1. Connect. If you know the person and have had positive interaction, your decision is easy. Frankly, the larger your personal network of people, the better equipped you will be in your business or in a job search. You never know when some opportunity or challenge comes along where you will require some help or an appropriate connection in your job. So why tempt fate? Connect.
  2. Do due diligence. If you receive a request by an unknown person to link, closely examine the name and conduct a quick background check. If the person and the company are to your liking and you see value, connect.
  3. A positive link. If the requestor is connected to someone you know, respect, and appreciate and the person has provided a reason to link, you may want to connect. 
  4. Assess the potential. If the requestor is unknown, try a Google search. Check Linkedin and/or Facebook or even Jigsaw, Ning, Spoke, or Plaxo. If the person moves in your sphere, is engaged in your business, and has potential as a connection to you, make an educated guesstimate to their value to you and your value to them. If it is positive and additive, just connect!
Taking a Pass?
  1. Forget the guilt. If you do not know the person and they live in Nigeria, there may be reason to take a pass.
  2. Be honest and respond. If you cannot muster any interest or logical reason to connect after doing due diligence on your requestor, take a pass. If you are compassionate nonetheless, respond with a “Thanks you for your request to connect. Being honest though, I do not know you, have no link with your network and you have provided no logical reason to connect, I am going to take a pass. I wish you all the best." 
As has been said many times, networking can be both benefit and bane. The key is to manage the network so that you have the ability to receive its rewards and the opportunity to pay it forward or back. What is clear is that networks are essential to human progress. They are useless unless you effectively employ them to gain advantage or give advantage. The key is to operate them in a way that is mutually beneficial, efficient to manage, and implemented with respect, reciprocity, and rigor.

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Gerry Corbett is the PRJobCoach at prjobcoach.com and CEO of Redphlag LLC, a strategy consultancy. He has served four decades in senior communications roles at Fortune 100 firms and earlier in his career in aerospace and computer engineering with NASA. He has a B.A. in public relations from San Jose State University and is a member of the International Advertising Association, National Investor Relations Institute; Arthur Page Society, National Association of Science Writers, and International Coaching Federation.

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