No. I Don't Want To Connect With You On LinkedIn

(Unless you actually want to connect)

The LinkedIn connection can feel so meaningless that my low connection count is almost a badge of honor.

It was morning. I hadn’t slept super well. My tea wasn’t ready. I pulled up Discord, where I’m a member of a few design communities and my grumpy eyes lasered in on one channel:


It was a dumping ground for LinkedIn profiles. Every post is a subtle variation of the last. A simple formula we’ve all picked up from somewhere:

Hey, my name is John. I’ve lived in the greater Chicagoland area for the last 10 years and I’m excited to meet some new people in the industry. Let’s connect! https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-e-morton
"Let’s connect!"

I kept thinking about those words, “social” and “chat”. There’s zero exchange going on this channel. We’re all just dumping our intro and LinkedIn and moving on.

I went to the beginning of the channel. There were no rules stating this was a repository for LinkedIn profiles. In fact, months earlier, there had been some discussion. And then it just kind of stopped.

And I kind of get it. You want a good job, you want to stay relevant, and maybe you’ve heard this rumor that you’ve got to amass 500+ connections before you’re anybody on LinkedIn. It turns out it’s not a rumor.

In a 2015 article hosted by LinkedIn, 500+ The Magic Number, they pretty much lay it out for you. At 500 the site stops counting. Employers are ready to take you seriously. The connections argument is all designed to get you to be active on the site and encourage others to be active (or join).

We end up making these meaningless connections to meet a metric. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t make connections. I’m saying they shouldn’t be meaningless.

Recently I attended a webinar in which participants were encouraged to drop their name, email, and of course, LinkedIn profile into a spreadsheet. The next week I received a half dozen formulaic requests. I accepted all of them, but with every request I tried to inject a little reality, a little bit of who I am.

“Hey, I have to be honest. That webinar was dragging on and I dipped out early so I could get the lawn mowed before sunset. What did you think? Is it worth me going back and watching the recording?”

Most have been receptive to my candor, and I hope it feels a little more like a real connection. And shouldn’t it feel that way? Or are we going to continue to strip meaning from the words “social”, “chat”, and “connection”?

There are lots of articles on how to grow your network on LinkedIn, but very few on how to make quality connections. These suggestions won’t make you lifelong friends with all your LinkedIn connections, but maybe it will help you remember one another more easily:

Know something about your potential connection

Other than their name and work title. Have you looked at their LinkedIn profile? Or their web site? My web site has an About section, specifically for sharing things about myself. 90% of it is related to my education and work experience, but there are few personal tidbits. I mention that I like The Beatles. Have you heard of them? Are you a fan? Is that an additional point we can connect on? It’s okay if it’s not, but there’s probably something. Even if your question or comment comes off as a little heavy handed, I know it means you took the time to look me up.

Share something about yourself

Where should I know you from? Have you written something that might be relevant to me? Do you also like The Beatles? Please share almost anything other than your name and job title.


It's George. George is my favorite Beatle. You're going to have to be more clever than that.

Use some real speak

Corporate speak has this sterile tone and word selection that just feels soulless. We use it avoid offending anyone. Recently I was surprised to attend a webinar titled “UX Fuckups” about major mistakes made while creating user experiences. Maybe the folks in Coppehaggen who organized it have a greater sense of humor than other parts of the world, but it was kind of refreshing even if I wouldn’t be casually throwing F-bombs around LinkedIn myself.

But we’re all grownups here, right? When I’m talking to people I use words like “damn”, “hell”, and “fart”. Don’t be vulgar for the sake of being vulgar, but don’t strip your language of all personality. 

Did you go to a seminar in which your “level of interest was low,” or did you go to a super boring seminar? Don’t tell the organizer it was super boring (use your soft skills), but one-on-one with another connection, say what you mean.

Be Concise

The real challenge now is taking these things and keeping your message concise. Craft your invitation so that it doesn’t feel like a formula. This will seem difficult the first couple of times, but will come naturally with repetition.

What it comes down to is LinkedIn is a platform. It is only as good as the people who are participating within it. If you want LinkedIn to be more than a thing you have to do to find a job or stay relevant in your field, you have to put some work in.

(50 points if you can convincingly use the word "fart" on LinkedIn in the next 30 days)

About The Author

My name is John Morton and I am currently a UX designer, artist, and more. My website is Neat & Keen. Thanks for stopping by!