Over the weekend I was attempting to get my LinkedIn profile up to speed. After making some edits to my profile and adding a few new projects to my project list, I decided to use their “Connect with people in your Gmail account” tool.

I started by unselecting “Connect with all” which had checked off every person that had an email address in my address book, then I went through the list and selected the people that I had recently met at events, conferences, connected with through projects, etc. You know, the right way to use LinkedIn.

Usually, I use Rapportive in my email to connect with colleagues, so this was the first time I had gone through this process. To my surprise, there were a lot of people that I should have been connected too long ago. There were also a lot of people I didn’t recognize or had forgotten I’d met.

After selecting several dozen people, I clicked next. The next screen was a dialogue box that said a bunch of stuff that I didn’t read and instead I just hit the big blue OK button.

Later, I realized I had clicked OK on the “Connect with everyone you’ve ever met in your life” button.

Almost immediately I started getting invitation acceptance from people. At first, they were all people I recognized and remembered selecting. But slowly, I started seeing “questionables”.

“Did I send an invite to that person?”

“Wait, do I even remember seeing that person in the list?”

Eventually, I figured out what happened. Especially when old girlfriends, my mother-in-laws second cousin, and a representative from Hotels.com “accepted” my invitation. At first, I wanted to retract the invitations. “Oh man…I didn’t mean to invite these people! What if they think I’m spamming them? How will that look?”

Instead, I had to just “ride it out.” Before I knew it, I had nearly 100 new connections. Some of them were people I remembered immediately and some of them are still mysteries.

However, this mistake did spark up several unexpected conversations. Old colleagues from past jobs reached out to see how business was going and several old college buddies mentioned that their companies might need some of our services.

This taught me two things:

1. People on LinkedIn seem to connect with anyone. I really doubt a majority of these folks remember me either, but they still accepted my invite. A few emailed and asked how we had met (which actually sparked up good conversation), and there are many others that simply ignored the request.

2. It’s interesting how people you would never think to connect with on a business level actually could be the next lead to a big win. One person in particular responded to my request and couldn’t remember where we had met, although my profile picture looked familiar. The conversation lead to an RFP that was coming out for a job we would be a perfect fit for.

At the end of the day, this “mistake” has turned out to be a blessing. I’m now reconnected with a lot of people from my past, we are possibly drumming up some new projects, and I’m now taking LinkedIn more seriously. I’m beginning to understand how LinkedIn can work for you. If Facebook is a weekend party at your friends house, LinkedIn is a Chamber of Commerce event. In both environments you’re simply having a good time, meeting new people, and telling people about yourself. The only difference is that Facebook may include some shameless table dancing and LinkedIn is a little more suit and tie.

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