[Managing Your Career] Is Someone on Facebook / LinkedIn Stalking You?

Help! I think I’m being stalked. Not the case of “someone’s watching you at home, better protect your family” sort of way, but being followed, and for five months no less. And funny thing is my bet is that the would-be stalkers – G.J. King and Darek DeFreece – don’t even know they’re stalking me.

As noted last week (Save the Whales – And Your (Career) Network!), managing your career work network is one of the most important things you can do. A connected, engaged, current personal career / work network provides dozens of added sets of eyes for opportunities for you, opens doors that would otherwise be shut, and gives you the type of great, candid feedback (remember: these people know and like you) you seldom get otherwise.

One danger of a network is in diluting the group of people who know you with people who don’t and sites like LinkedIn and Facebook – helpful as they can also be – make it easy to degrade your network.

How?

By the ever friendly prompts to add “friends” the sites suggest you know. From Facebook (“Add people you know as friends and become a fan of public profiles you like”) to LinkedIn (“People you may know”) through to Plaxo (These Plaxo members may be your co-workers or share common connections. Connect with the people you know”) there’s a lot of suggesting going on.

Mostly it seems pretty harmless and mostly helpful. But the way you get into trouble with diluting your network is clicking on the “connect” button with people you don’t know or don’t-know-so-well that you end up adding to your career work network.

Someplace, somewhere in the social site background there are algorithms running that are trying to connect the dots of your social and work networks, and is the product of Social Network theory.

Mostly it works, and the theory behind is that social networks are a series of nodes and ties that bind us.

So why is this important?

One of the big reasons to move beyond your cozy circle of friends (the “hard” network) to people outside your immediate network to a new circle (the “soft” network) when job hunting, dating, or looking for the new, new idea is that this outside network is where all the new connections and opportunities lie. It helps you to run in different circles – things like dog owners, antique car restorers, college alumni – so that you can tap into different networks for resources when things come up.

The hard social and business networks – people you know well – mostly run in packs together. But if you’re doing it right, you’re occasionally breaking out into other networks as you build your own personal career work network.

Which brings me back to G.J. King and Darek DeFreece: why does LinkedIn and Facebook keep suggesting them as connections?

Darek, who is an attorney and a managing counsel with Wells Fargo, worked at Barclays Global Investors in San Francisco, as I did. That connection got clear when he joined a BGI LinkedIn alumni group to which I also belong and his CV popped up with the BGI experience on it.

G.J. is a little trickier, since he’s apparently a Stanford B-school student. He did work at Goldman Sachs Private Wealth Management in San Francisco, where I have friends and professional colleagues. And, looks like he played basketball: I played college basketball for Willamette – and you can almost hear the algorithms running in the background putting G.J and me in the same network.

Darek and G.J. look like nice guys, and from their bios they’re type of people I’d probably have as friends or contacts. But do I know them? No. So I’ll hold off on accepting the web site’s suggestion to connect with either of them, and wait for a real exchange before I add them to any of my networks.

P.S. Real stalking, by the way, is something I take very seriously: there is no humor in being on the receiving end, nor is there being in the friends community of someone who is being stalked. While I think it’s important to nurture your career work network, it pales in comparison with the need to have people safe and sound and free from stalking.