When is it OK to Add a Client or Colleague to Your LinkedIn Network?

Knowing when (and how) to initiate online professional relationships can be a tricky business in and of itself. While LinkedIn is the most widely used network for establishing and keeping business contacts, it can still be a minefield of unspoken etiquette. How soon is too soon to add a colleague? Should you ever connect with a client? Read on for some general guidelines focused on making and keeping professional contacts that will be mutually beneficial for everyone involved.


You might have already noticed this trend in your own LinkedIn adventures, but users generally tend toward three different attitudes: one of total acceptance, one who remains closed off, and somewhere in between.

Immediately accept!

The first type of user doesn’t even bother to look at the profile of the person who just requested to connect with them. They see a name, they click “accept.” People who do this tend to focus on the number of connections they have as opposed to the quality of those connections. Granted, this approach can have some considerable negatives (the seemingly endless stream of unsolicited emails!). But if your client seems like this kind of networker, they probably won’t bat an eye if you request to connect.

Hard to get

The second type of user is extremely choosy on who they connect with, only doing so with someone they have actually worked with. Here you’ll have to take a more cautious approach, reaching out if you’ve spent a fairly significant amount of time communicating with this person specifically over the course of your project. It should be fairly obvious if your client tends to keep their network small and private based on the small number of connections they have. This approach tends to go against the idea of an online networking platform in general, but to each his or her own.

A blend of the two

The third type of user is a blend of the two styles mentioned above and may actually be the most beneficial. Why? It’s a way to cultivate a targeted group of high-quality connections. If your client is this type of networker, the chances are high they’ll accept once they at least vaguely recognize your name, face, or the company at which you work.

Proceed with at least some caution

Connecting with colleagues on LinkedIn should seem fairly straightforward, but can come with unforeseen landmines of its own. While requesting a connection after at least two weeks on the job is a fairly common rule of thumb, be aware of the pitfalls of adding anything personal to your profile. LinkedIn should, theoretically, be a business-only type of social network, but we all know that reality doesn’t always match the ideal. Don’t comment or “like” anything with even a whiff of controversy about it, and definitely don’t advertise that you’re “open to work” if you’re connected with a coworker at a current job. Nothing fuels the flames of gossip faster than advertising you’re looking elsewhere.

The bottom line is that if you have a real reason for connecting to a client or colleague, you should. Whether it’s talking to them about a current project or courting them for a future endeavor, most people who have spent a few hours working with you in person, over the phone, or online won’t look twice at a LinkedIn connection request. Sometimes you’ll even find that certain people are easier to get in touch with via professional social media sites than they are through calling their cell phone or sending them an email. People are online so much during the workday now that the idea isn’t as strange as it used to be.

LinkedIn has long been used as a source for both job seekers and those looking to hire. It can be a valuable resource if used correctly—but can also cause unnecessary headaches when it’s not. Keep the guidelines above in mind in order to keep your business relationships as beneficial and stress-free as possible.

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