When March comes in like a L.I.O.N.

Lion on a decorative panel made of molded bric...

So March has come in like a lion.

If the old adage holds true it’s supposed to go out like a lamb.

Lions are everything the people behind LinkedIn don’t want to happen to the giant professional networking site, but they should. LIONS are Linked In Open Networkers. These are professionals who accept invitations from anyone, or mostly anyone, to be in their network. LinkedIn cautions against sending invitations to anyone you do not actually know. In effect, they do not condone open networking.

Personally, I always thought the whole idea of “networking” was to expand the amount of professional contacts one has. In the old days one networked by attending various functions and exchanging business cards. On LinkedIn you can join groups, follow companies, follow people, but you are cautioned not to invite complete strangers, albeit professional ones, into your family of contacts. Seems counterintuitive to me when the whole point of professional networking, in my view, is to reach out to people whose expertise you may benefit from one day and vice versa.

LinkedIn does not officially want you to do that

In fact, the whole idea of not being an open networker and just networking among the relatively few numbers of people we encounter in our local professional spheres is sort of like a twisted form of reverse psychology in play. People defy what LinkedIn officially prefers and open network anyway, each and every day—much like children who do the complete opposite of what their parents tell them. No matter the attempts to quash the phenomenon that is open networking, it exists and the numbers within its ranks are growing.

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I hesitate to say I am an open networker, but unless someone checks out as spam, scam or ham, I typically accept most invitations to professionally network on LinkedIn. Besides, should you find a new contact isn’t working out or is not all they’re cracked up to be (or worse), are a nuisance, LinkedIn gives you the ability to block them. That, in and of itself, should be comforting and assuage fears of hoards of threatening, professional networkers raining terror down upon you.

That said, I don’t know if I would necessarily block someone I felt were sending unwanted email or contacting me with offers I was not interested in. I would like to think I would write them back and politely let them know they should give it a rest. That should be adequate and leaves the door open should things change down the road and you want to reacquaint yourself on a professional basis with said individual(s).

I find most people are respectful and courteous when it comes to open networking on LinkedIn. Sometimes, I can’t respond to emails. We all gets lots of email and many a day are spent just pruning our inboxes, as bizarre as that sounds. But it’s a fact. Just ask any mid-level manager at a Fortune 500 company. The corporate email inbox is one of the great time drains of the modern era, sad to say.

For a new contact who is marketing you on LinkedIn, if you just don’t reply at all, it usually gives emails a reason to grind to a halt. As I said, people are polite and if they are not getting the responses they desire from you, they can just go next door, so to speak.

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Speaking of going next door…

I equate some open networkers on LinkedIn with people who go door to door selling legitimate products and services. I have on occasion bought something from someone who has solicited me by knocking on my front door. I have also entertained those inconsiderate door to door solicitors who have come after hours to my front door; but only to tell them, “I don’t think so,” after they ask if they can come back during the light of day. If you think I will buy what you’re selling me at night time, you need to buy a watch, because if you do, then you’ll know that the night time is the wrong time to be in this neighborhood. Plus, it’s a matter of judgment. If you think it’s cool to sell me at night at my front door, I question your overall decision-making.

Are there any benefits to being a LION?

I have to say for me there has most definitely been a benefit. For one thing, it has given me material to produce good reads here for the blogosphere. But seriously, the contacts I have made in the short time span I have been participating have not created anything earth-shattering for me so much as given me a peaceful, easy feeling—just like The Eagles sang.

Some of the things I don’t care much for in the LION community are the number of motivational sayings posted. While some are beautiful sentiments, I feel it detracts somewhat from the professional community LinkedIn aspires to be. At the same time, there really isn’t anything wrong with trying to be a cheerleader or helping someone by supplying uplifting sayings. All the same, it feels a bit like Jack Handy at times. Perhaps I am a bit jaded, but then again, who am I to argue with the material that LIONS enjoy most?

Lion - Louisville Zoo

Against the grain

The differences in how LIONS behave in the wild that is LinkedIn is what makes them most attractive to me. Their very nature of going against the modality of what the networking site would prefer in the first place (in terms of how to use the site), makes them loveable underdogs. LIONS are not malicious. They are not trying to usurp what LinkedIn is supposed to be intended for. In fact, LIONS are helping LinkedIn evolve to a place it might not reach if otherwise left to the networking site’s managerial devices. They don’t mind breaking from supposed norms over things like what photos members use is appropriate or not. Since when has LinkedIn or anybody for that matter cornered the market as to what is professional? The word “appropriate” is ever-evolving and popular culture commonly crosses over into professional worlds, suggesting fashion trends that enable us to be our best.

LIONS also bring some lighthearted, good-natured fun and smiles to the goings on at the sometimes too-stodgy LinkedIn. Before open networking was even talked about, LinkedIn struggled with keeping the site from feeling sterile and dare I say, boring, that is, compared to “unprofessional” networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. LinkedIn has always been a bit pretentious in what it purports to offer and what it actually delivers.

While maybe not encouraged or officially endorsed, LinkedIn management is wise to permit the trend of open networking to flourish. There are worse things. To try to silence what the people want will surely end with LinkedIn shooting itself in the foot. The swinging world of LinkedIn open networkers is just only getting started. March (and all months to come) surely will not go out like lambs if LIONS have anything to do with it.

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