LinkedIn - No Lion
When I started my sourcing career I spent my very first day on the job signing up to LinkedIn. After a brief introduction on the product and how it worked, my window to “networking” was open and I was determined to make my mark. With the helping hand of my manager, I spent the rest of the day joining relevant open networking groups and communities both within LinkedIn and without and generally optimising my profile. Fast-forward to the present day and if I were to do it all again starting from scratch I would have built my LinkedIn profile completely differently…


The Basics of LinkedIn – A quick overview

The vast majority of recruiters and sourcers use LinkedIn to help identify passive candidates. These days that is almost all that LinkedIn is used for. Unless you are an in-house recruitment function and have purchased a LinkedIn Recruiter licence, you are going to be stuck with various degrees of limited visibility on your third degree of connections. The degree of visibility depends on the licence you carry.


How it works:

LinkedIn works on connections – first, second and third degree connections. The higher your first degree connections, the larger your network reaches. Think ‘six degrees of separation’.


LinkedIn connections

LinkedIn connections: Where you’re completely sunburnt and your friends are aliens

First degree connections
These are your direct connections. People who have accepted your invitation to connect and those who’s invitation you have accepted.

Second degree connections
First degree connections of your first degree connections that you are not directly connected to. The next layer up in your network.

Third degree connections
First degree connections of your second degree connections that you are not directly connected to and is not a first degree connection of your first degree connections. The furthest layer of your network’s sphere of influence…


LinkedIn - Licence to Fill (small)

LinkedIn: Giving you a ‘Licence to Fill’


What is Open Networking:

Have you ever come across a LinkedIn profile that has (LION) or (Open Networker) or worse yet, the self aggrandising (3000+/6500+/10000+) connections after their name like it’s some sort of exclusive club or denotation of higher achievement? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against displaying a level of competency from a professional organisation (e.g. CPA, CPENG, CCIE, etc) because let’s face it, you earned it! But joining a free and open to public group and spamming people’s emails with invitations to connect hardly adds up to any achievement on any level.

LIONS (LinkedIn Open Networks), LIONS500 (LIONS with 500+ connections), TopLinkedIn, etc etc. What were once the doorway to heaven are now the bane of my LinkedIn inbox.


LinkedIn - Connections

Every time my inbox reaches 300, I do a cull. The next one will be my third run

So with all this hoo-ha about Open Networking, let’s explore why one would get into it at all…



When you’re first starting out and you want to get access to the 225 million members on LinkedIn’s database, the easiest way is to maximise your first level connections. The more people you’re directly connected to, the more second and third level connections you have and so it is that you jump on the open networking groups and network until your heart is content using this pseudo network ponzi scheme. The reason behind it or at least it was for me, is that if you seed your connections with open networkers, they will actively go out and connect with others hence increasing their first level connections and your second and third level connections. Hence you do minimal work but maximise your gains as the network grows beneath and around you.



The problem with this is not so much of a financial loss but rather a dilution of your personal brand. People have access to who you connect on LinkedIn through their news feeds. They know who you’re connecting with, in what areas and how often. Say you’re a customer and you want to use a recruiter on a retainer to help you hire a sales engineer. You notice two recruiters working in this space, Recruiter A has over 7000+ connections and actively advertises it and Recruiter B only has around 400. You know the basics of LinkedIn and think great, what an excellent network Recruiter A must have, surely they’ll be able to find me a great candidate lickety split. Then you compare the activity on their profile and you start to notice that a lot of Recruiter A’s recent connections have been from people all over the world working in all different types of industries. Recruiter B on the other hand has a history of connecting with relevant people in your industry, in your location and from your competitors. The decision on who to work with is a no brainer.


How I would do it:

The reason why I decided to start my account as an Open Networker was because I was hired as a generalist sourcer. It made sense that I maximise my access to the LinkedIn database across the board because, well, you never know… If I were to do it all over again starting from now, I would start small, limit my connections to people in my industry and ideally only focus on those that I’ve actually had interactions with. I’d work towards being known as a subject matter expert in a particular vertical or specialised skill set and cover that market like I’m Scrooge McDuck looking for my lost dollar.

That is of course ideal but in reality I know that sometimes you don’t get a choice on what areas you’re focusing on and you have to just work with what you’ve got. I have no qualms about being an open networker so long as it’s targeted and relevant. With the hoardes of recruiters trying to make their mark and differentiate themselves from the rest, nothing stands out more than being known as a subject matter expert in that space and everyone in that industry that has worked with you have had good dealings or have heard of your good work.

What are your thoughts on Open Networking? Spammers or clever marketers? Share your thoughts below.

-Sourcing Ninja (2800+)

4 Responses to “Why I decided to stop being an “Open Networker””

  1. Stan Rolfe says:

    Hi Ken

    Nice piece. Whilst I have never bragged or identified myself as having X number of contacts, or an open networker, I did start out in a similar fashion to yourself. So much so, I was even privileged to receive a warning from LinkedIn in relation to my ‘spamming’ of members. From recollection (years ago) I think I had sent a couple thousand invites over the course of a couple of years before this warning was sent.

    I changed my ways long ago. I’ve found now that the majority of my approaches and inmails are now accepted through trial and error. Whilst I try and maintain contact with my network and provide value through some of my updates and blogs its hard work. Can’t imagine how hard it is for those with larger networks.

    My recommendation to LinkedIn is that it reduces the number of ‘I dont know this member’ that each member can send. This will help reduce the increasing spamming of members, and provide some value to members. It also needs to regularly update members in relation to their contact settings and how these can be adjusted. I do this in my inmails which seems to be appreciated by those not in the know. And there are a lot of folks that dont know.

    Thanks for your article.

    • Hi Stan,

      Thanks for the comment. I’ve heard of people running out of invites and having to contact LinkedIn to ask for more but never a compliment from LinkedIn about their networking efforts.

      I definitely understand the struggles of trying to engage with your network by providing insights and commentary, even more so because I feel as though I’m across a few areas: Science & Tech, IT/T, Engineering… I’ve ended up being more of a lurker and adding bits and bobs wherever I can but heavily focusing my engagement during projects.

      I’m not sure if this is still the case but a while back if you tried to send an invitation to connect using the ‘I don’t know this member’ option, LinkedIn would direct you to a help section that basically lectured you about only connecting with people you know.

  2. Shireen DuPreez says:

    Interesting blog post Ken. I like the way you have explained how the connections work and the pros and cons of being an open networker. I decided to become an open networker years ago to enable maximum use of the LinkedIn platform for sourcing but also for outreach direct to potential candidates. I do get a lot of spam. For most professionals though I agree, managed well, a closed network serves their purpose effectively.

    • Hi Shireen, thanks for reading my post. When you say you decided to become an open networker, is that a more targeted open networking which I described in my ‘how I would do it’ section or the more friendlier ‘everyone accepted’ approach?

      If it’s the latter, how do you think this affects your branding in the vertical you’re in? Do you think is it expected that you’re generally well connected because of the work we do?

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