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My personal guide to LinkedIn etiquette

Anyone who has worked with me knows that I am a fan of the power of LinkedIn.

LinkedIn helps the big, bad world feel like a cosy neighbourhood – you can find who to borrow sugar from, and who can look after the cat while you’re away. You can find neighbours even if they don’t live next door.

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Like a real-world neighbourhood, everyone on LinkedIn has has their own set of rules. Some people collect connections, some ‘lurk’ (observe without posting), some privately observe others.

Here’s my own personal guidelines for LinkedIn. Feel free to adopt or amend (or not) as you see fit.

1. I prefer a ‘headline’ that is about skills rather than job title. Mine says ‘Facilitator | Coach | Trainer | Mentor | Consultant | Non Executive Director GAICD’. It doesn’t say ‘Principal, Helga Svendsen Consulting’ which is my job title. I prefer this approach as you are so much more than your job title! Having a skills/strengths title showcases who you are rather than what you are doing at the moment.

The default on LinkedIn is to use your job title. To change this, go to your own profile and, at the top of your profile, click on the pencil in the right hand corner. You can then type whatever you want into the ‘headline’ section.

2. I regularly use the ‘second connection’ feature to find who to ask for introductions. For example, if I am looking to join a board, I will find out who is currently on the board. I will then search those people on LinkedIn to find out who I know that knows them. If we have mutual connections, I will ask for an introduction.

I have had some amazing conversations with people in this way. For one role, I had over 20 conversations with alumni, funders, partners, staff. These people were all over the world. No-one said no to a request for a chat.

In the same way, I want to be able to connect people if I am asked. And I am only comfortable doing that if I actually know them. Which leads me to my third guideline:

3. I only connect with people I have actually met. I see LinkedIn as a means for personal connection. I don’t begrudge those that boast 10,000+ connections in their headline – it’s just not for me. I have responded to connection requests from people I don’t know with the following message:

Hi (x),

Thanks for the invitation to connect on LinkedIn. I generally don’t connect with people unless I’ve actually met them. So you can tell me a bit more about what it is that interests you about my experience/profile? And, if you are keen on catching up for a cuppa at some stage, let me know when and how we can make that happen?

I look forward to hearing from you,


I’ve had many meetings with people who have responded and we have had a cuppa – a fabulous way to meet new people.

4. I ‘like’, comment and post regularly. I enjoy reading what others are posting and want to make my contribution to the community. I post a (semi) regular blog and will post updates about workshops and events I am hosting or attending. I tag people who are at these events so they know I have mentioned them. I like it when others tag me too.

5. I ask for recommendations (recommendations are where you write something). But I think the skills and endorsements – the tick-a-box things – are pretty useless. Because of this, I don’t often do skills and endorsements for others.

6. I like it when people have a profile photo – it helps when I’m meeting you for a cuppa and I’m not sure what you look like! It doesn’t need to be a professional shot – mine is taken on a mobile phone!

7. I have my alerts turned off so my inbox isn’t full of stuff from LinkedIn (and Facebook, for that matter). If I want to check LinkedIn, I’ll do it on the desktop or app.

I find LinkedIn incredibly useful and valuable. I use it daily and will always look someone up if I am meeting them for the first time (or even the second time). The first thing I look for is who we know in common.

What are your tips, tricks, guidelines and personal etiquette on LinkedIn? I’d love to hear them – feel free to share with me.

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