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LinkedIn Questions: Shady connections, responding to bad “recommendations,” and contacting via email vs. through LinkedIn

April 23rd, 2014

A JibberJobber user recently emailed me a few questions about LinkedIn and said I could share my responses with you.  His questions/text is in bold:

I have been consulting for a while, and am now looking for a permanent job. I have a few questions that stop me from moving forward, and I bet it does the same to your clients and readers.

question_mark_blog_smallWhen you contact someone on LinkedIn, and they are linked to a person “who will not sing your praises,” what do you do? I am stopped by concern of this.

I don’t really care who people are connected to.  Being connected doesn’t mean there is a strong relationship, or even a growing relationship, or that my connection is even interested in having a professional relationship with that person.  If I’m going to connect or communicate with someone I see/meet/etc. on LinkedIn, I am not going to go through their network to see who my frenemies are that they are connected to.  I know there is a potential for awkwardness.

Recently I’ve been re-networking into an organization that for some lame reason had branded me as something bad, and cautioned them to not look at or consider JibberJobber.  This is an isolated situation, in only one branch of the organization, but I was surprised that the feelings and perceptions are still there. I’ve tried to move forward without assuming that any of those previous contacts are in touch, have a relationship where they would ask for referrals or information, etc.  I would say that you either ignore the connection to the person who would not sing your praises, or you just move on to another contact.

You won’t know until you reach out to your target.  Maybe they have no idea what’s going on, don’t care, or better yet, realize that the person who “doesn’t sing your praises” is a jerk, creep, narcissist, or otherwise not to have their opinion trusted.

question_mark_blog_smallI was Linked to a boss I had for 2 or 3 months. He has a reputation of just being a terrible person. I was far from the person that took the most demeaning treatment from him. I “de-linked” him as I would rather not be associated with him. But he gets around and is very well known in the business. How do I handle this? Do I just go on hoping other people think the same and/or don’t ask him for a reference?

I wouldn’t put any thought into it. You are too busy moving forward to worry about this guy who probably doesn’t have anything bad to say about you.  It was a short period of time, and maybe he thinks favorably of you?  I know that might seem impossible, but read my post on working with narcissists here.  These people are real gems, aren’t they?

If this person has this reputation, a lot of people will disregard his input.  His brand is that of someone who never has anything nice to say about anyone.  What that means is if he says something mean, that is par for the course.  If he can squeak out something positive, then that is a HUGE compliment.  Don’t spend any time working on this person, just move forward.

If someone says “yeah but, so-and-so said you are _________,” you might need a very short, non-bitter response like “I worked with that person for two months.  There were a lot of problems in his department, and he wasn’t ever close enough to me or my projects to know my work ethic or output.  I can provide you with some character references that are much more qualified to weigh in on this than him.”  Or something like that.  You don’t want to be a deer in the headlights with some negative or false accusation, but you don’t want to come out fighting and tearing him down (which will only make you look bad).

question_mark_blog_smallMost people will say something nice about me, or not much at all. Maybe I am going to get an average or below average comment from 1 out of 20 of my connections. How do you handle this?

I would go to the main people who I know would say something nice about me, and work with them to get LinkedIn Recommendations, and ask if they would be a reference for me.  I would not worry about the 1 out of 20 that would not.

Let’s say you had 19 out of 20 that would say bad stuff about you – don’t pursue them.  Just work on the ones that will be favorable.  And, interestingly, time has a way of changing and softening things.  For example, someone you worked with ten years ago might have a different, even favorable, perspective, and have forgotten petty office stuff.  Even if you are holding on to those things, they might have forgotten about them through time or their own personal life changes (layoffs, job searches, deaths, etc.) or because they have realized that THEY shouldered as much of the problem as you have.

question_mark_blog_smallFinally is it better to contact a person via email, if you have their email (or can figure it out), or through LinkedIn?

I ALWAYS try to connect via email first, instead of through LinkedIn.

Sometimes LinkedIn communications add some extra barriers to responding. For example, if you message me on LinkedIn, can I respond back by clicking the reply button? Not always.  I sometimes have to click on the respond button, login to LinkedIn, and send a message from there.  That is not in my email sent folder, which is really lame.  I don’t want to be forced to message you through a system that I don’t really like.

Bottom line, I would email them. If they don’t respond in a reasonable timeframe, I assume the email really was bad, and then I connect with them on LinkedIn (and say “can we get on a call or can I email you about _____?”  My end goal is not to connect with them, but to start a relationship and communication that can grow to something bigger (like a long-term relationship, introduction, informational interview, etc.).

I hope these responses help.  I’m not the “final answer” on the above, this is all swayed by my experience.  It sounds like you have elements of fear that are holding you back, but let me assure you that (a) most job seekers do, and (b) most of the time, the fear is unfounded, and (c) as you move forward your fear can melt away.  Also, I think many times we assume things that are just not accurate… don’t let your assumptions paralyze you. Job seekers are not in a position where they can tolerate being paralyzed for too long.

Any other ideas to add to this?

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