USA TODAY columnist Steven Petrow offers advice about living in the Digital Age.

Last week, I received two very inappropriate LinkedIn requests. No, not inappropriate because I didn’t know them (a topic I have written about previously). But, in fact, because I knew them all too well. And what I remembered was not so good.

Let me explain. Until a few years ago I was an executive with a digital media company, with hiring and firing as a core part of my job. When the request from “Barbara” (not her real name) appeared in my inbox, I scratched my head for a moment trying to place her. Then, I did. The last time we had spoken was about five years ago when I had to tell her she was being let go for “performance reasons.” In other words, I fired her because she wasn’t good at her job. What chutzpah, I said to myself as I deleted the networking request from my inbox.

The other inappropriate request? That came from a former colleague who was terminated for attempting to “obtain” prescription painkillers from someone who reported to her. She had promised a quid pro quo: Drugs for a promotion. No, this is not really the kind of person I want in my professional network.

What were they thinking? My best guess is that they weren’t, and that each had merrily gone scrolling through the potential connections served up to them, clicking connect at every opportunity.

This is very bad LinkedIn behavior.

While it’s one thing to define “friends” loosely when it comes to Facebook or “followers” on Twitter or Snapchat, you want your LinkedIn network to be beyond reproach because, as the adage goes; “You are known by the company you keep.”

The takeaway:

— Think before you hit that “connect” button. How do you think they’ll respond to your request? When in doubt, use InMail to ask if it’s okay to connect.

— Don’t mindlessly connect with others simply to build a sales prospecting list — or any other kind of list. Bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to LinkedIn. Think quality over quantity.

— Don’t accept LinkedIn requests from someone you wouldn’t recommend for a job (because once you click “accept,” that’s often what comes next).

— Don’t send requests to people you don’t know.

LinkedIn may not be the only thing between you and a bad reputation, but it’s worth tending your participation carefully if you are in fact looking for the kind of career-enriching connections that the networking service is intended.

What’s been your experience with LinkedIn? Good, bad, ugly?

Submit your question to Steven at stevenpetrow@earthlink.net. You can also follow Steven on Twitter: @StevenPetrow. Or like him on Facebook at facebook.com/stevenpetrow.

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