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LinkedIn is not the place to look for potential dates

11/10/15 3:32pm

Looking to broaden your career network? Trying to connect with business partners? Searching for that special someone to take your company to the next level? These are all perfectly reasonable expectations to have on LinkedIn, a social networking site with the mission to “connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” Therefore, it should go without saying that LinkedIn is not the place to look for potential dates. Surprisingly, this is not common knowledge, particularly with older men. In fact, a recent article on Inc.com argues that LinkedIn is the “next online dating site” and actually encourages users to seek out dating partners on a website designed to facilitate career networking. 

While searching for dates on LinkedIn may seem relatively harmless, it can create quite a dilemma for individuals on the receiving end of the solicitation. For example, Charlotte Proudman reported in Independent that many young women, including herself, have recently been receiving sexist messages on LinkedIn from older men asking them out on dates and inappropriately commenting on their profile pictures. Proudman argues that like everyone else on the website, these women were looking to “improve their career prospects,” not to be approached by random strangers. When Proudman called these men out for their sexist remarks on LinkedIn, the men responded with antagonism. They were rudely interfering with these women’s chances for job success by commenting on their appearances and asking them for dates instead of building real career connections that could lead to job success. Furthermore, there could also be an element of danger to this type of interaction. The information people post on LinkedIn is often much more personal and publicly available than information they post on other social media sites, because they want to be easily sought out by companies. In the wrong hands, contact information and personal history on LinkedIn profiles can become more of a liability than a convenient online resume. 

I used to think behaviors like these were just isolated incidents until I also received a similar message on LinkedIn. I was talking to one of my mentors at a Rice Business School networking event, when a man in his mid-30s approached me and talked to me about the consulting company he worked for. Before leaving, he gave me his card and told me to email him my resume so he could see if I would be a good fit for the company. I was excited about having a possible job opportunity at an interesting firm. Therefore, I was shocked to receive the following message on LinkedIn later that week:

“Hey, How’s it going? Congratulations on your job — good on you! I didn’t exchange contact details the other day, so glad I stumbled up on (sic) your LinkedIn. It was fun chatting with you the other night at the RICE event. Do you want to get a drink sometime? Let me know, and I’ll be sure to take your number :). Cheers, ______”

After reading his message, I had multiple questions going through my head including: How did he “stumble upon” my profile? Why is he asking me out, when the only thing we talked about was his company and possibly working there? Does he expect me to accept his invitation in order to get a job?

In my response, I tried to politely turn the conversation back to my interest in working for the company: 

“Hi, ______! Thank you for your well wishes! I’m sorry I took so long to email you. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks! I emailed you my resume today, as I am really interested in possibly working in environmental consulting after I graduate this May. Could you please let me know if you received my email? I’d love to meet up for coffee sometime and learn more about the company and how I can bring value to the team. Thank you, Komal.”

Not surprisingly, I did not receive a reply. 

To the men asking women out on LinkedIn, they might view this interaction as a man harmlessly complimenting a woman. However, as an article in The Atlantic put it, “receiving a compliment is one thing, but being put in an awkward position by a powerful person in the same industry is something else entirely. The act of networking is plenty obnoxious enough already even without considering all the gender, age and status dynamics that go into seeking career guidance from another human being.” Hence, this type of behavior creates a dilemma for female job seekers, especially those of us who are just starting to enter the workforce as college graduates. We need support from men in powerful positions in a company in order to secure jobs and start our careers on the right foot. Getting asked out and catcalled on a platform intended to build relationships to further our careers is therefore not only inappropriate but also frustrating.

Komal Agarwal is a Mcmurtry College senior.

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