Increasing your network is a common New Year’s resolution, so it’s not surprising that I’ve seen more requests to connect on LinkedIn and Facebook lately. But I’ve also noticed that while the quantity of the connections is picking up, the quality is taking a downward turn.
It may be due in part to the growing number of Millennials entering the workforce. According to the Department of Labor, the generation born between 1976 and 2001 now numbers more than 80 million. In 2014, 36 percent of the U.S. workforce was made up of Millennials. By 2020, Millennials are projected to comprise nearly half of the U.S. workplace.
This generation embraced social media at a young age, and that accounts for some of their online quirks.
Beware, for example, of a 30-something who gives you an AOL email address. He will never respond to any email sent to that address. He never checks it; in fact, he probably never checks email (you have something to say? Text it.) Why hang on to it at all? Here’s the reply I received: “My generation got some of the first email addresses, so we could actually get our name @ AOL. I’m not going to give up my ‘Jack Jones’ email; I’d never get it back. I’d have to be ‘JackJones20722’ or something like that.”
Have you noticed a growing number of young Facebook contacts with names like “Julie Katie” or “davester”? Why the heck not use your full name on Facebook, so I can recognize who you are? Again, the answer is connected to their age. Many
Millenials started their Facebook pages as teenagers, and their diligent parents wanted to make sure their identity was protected. So they shortened their name to a cute, safer version, and they’ve probably been using the same page ever since. Not too much of a problem, since Facebook is seldom used as a professional networking tool. As an added benefit, personal pages that don’t reflect your full professional name probably won’t show up in a search, so younger candidates use nicknames as a way to keep their career and personal lives separate.
LinkedIn should be held to a higher standard, since is it intended as a serious, professional, career tool. But the Millennials may not have gotten the memo. As a matter of fact, they may not know what a memo is. (Helpful historical reference link here.)
If you’re confused as to why your requests to connect are not being accepted, here are some tips for younger contacts who want to be taken seriously on LinkedIn.
- Use grown up rules of grammar and punctuation.’davester’ may work on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, but on LinkedIn, you should capitalize your name. If I see your connection request come in as ‘donnie j.’, I will have trouble taking you seriously. Remember that part of the LinkedIn culture is that you are judged by the quality of your network, so part of your first impression becomes part of my first impression. Unless you’re ee cummings (Helpful historical reference link here), capitalize your name and headline.
- You do need to include a photo (I don’t usually accept connections from people whose face I can’t see.) But you must use a professional and in-focus head shot. I’m seeing increasing numbers of dark, casual, blurry, and outdoor shots as LinkedIn profile photos. Selfies are obvious, and they diminish your professional image, even if they don’t feature the dreaded duckface. No duckface. Ever. Trust me, these are the snaps your children, and your children’s children, will be mocking 20 years from now.
- Connect with people you know first and build up some numbers. If we are complete strangers, don’t make me connection #4. My first action will to be to look at your network to see how we’re connected. If you have no network, it’s very unlikely that a professional will accept the request. If you’re new to LinkedIn, start by connecting to your actual coworkers and social network. Link out to strangers and public figures only after you have filled out your profile and have some experience in using the site.
Just as you’d wear different clothes to a pool party and a state dinner (I hope), it’s helpful to know that different online sites have different protocols. On the internet, no one may know you’re a dog (helpful historical link here) but they may suspect you’re not ready for prime time.