Honestly, this is always my instinctive reaction. Whenever I get a LinkedIn message from someone I know (as opposed to one of those spam messages from someone who culled my email address from a website somewhere) my immediate reaction, without a second thought, is 'Oh, they've moved on, have they?'
The fact is, people only ever initiate LinkedIn (or Plaxo) campaigns when they've lost their jobs or, alternatively, they're thinking of striking out and exploring new pastures. It stands to reason, doesn't it? If you're staying put (unless you're in sales) you have no incentive to extend your LinkedIn network. Fortunately, as a freelance, no one ever tries to sell me anything (except the spammers) so the only LinkedIn invitations I ever get are from people in career transition situations.
Funny thing is, this post was triggered by a LinkedIn invitation from someone I've known since the age of eleven, and who I know for a fact is not in the situation I've just described (although we have a mutual friend who is, who perhaps may have triggered the whole chain of reaction, although if that's the explanation, I'm wondering why my other friend — who by the way was best man at my wedding — didn't invite me first. The cheek!)
Now given this person has been a friend for more than thirty years — and I was best man at his wedding — LinkedIn's standard opening message rings a bit hollow:
"Since you are a person I trust, I wanted to invite you to join my network on LinkedIn."
Well yes, Andrew, I should think so too after all these years. But what's in it for either of us?
"I'm using it to discover inside connections I didn't know I had. It's interesting to see the level of access you can have with only a few people in your network."
I'm sorry, what inside connections did we not know we had after 30-odd years? I mean, I can understand if we only just met at a conference or have had intermittent business dealings, but you seem to have forgotten I researched intimate details of your life while penning my best man's speech. We have 'inside connections' you've long since forgotten about.
Still, if LinkedIn has reached my friend Andrew, who has no connection whatever to the technology industry, then I guess it's high time I joined up too. Everything else I hear tells me that LinkedIn has reached a tipping point. My invitation from Andrew is confirmation of that. I've resisted any number of LinkedIn invitations over the years — some of them from very prestigious contacts — but when one of your oldest friends invites you that's the moment when you know this thing really has hit the mainstream and you have to yield to it (even if they did just lose their job. Tell me it's not that, Andrew ...)