When you open an account at LinkedIn, the default setting is that your connections can be viewed by anyone. I used to have my connections open, until one day when I was doing some searching in a particular industry for companies to work, I noticed that all of the salespeople had decided to hide their connections and kept their contacts private. To me, this made sense, as they didn’t want their competitors to get their hands on their contacts. I asked myself if there was any advantage of keeping my own connections open or closed.
The knee-jerk reaction to this is that one’s contacts should be open if you are a LinkedIn Open Networker (LION). However, do I want someone looking through all of my contacts to see who they should connect to? Who would want to look at my contacts and for what purpose?
The funny thing about it is if you are looking for someone to connect to, it is much faster to use the Advanced LinkedIn Search functionality and pinpoint a person rather than going through tens of screens of someone’s contacts looking for someone. The important thing is that if you find someone you need to be introduced to, the person who is connected will appear and that person can be contacted to facilitate an introduction. As an open networker I fulfill an obligation to do my best to connect people when there is proper rationale around it.
So, if you are in sales or a relationship-centric occupation, I can understand and respect that you keep your contacts closed as I do. If you ever need my help at facilitating an introduction from someone you find on Advanced Search, please let me know and I will do my best. But if you ask me to open up my contacts to you, I will want to know what the purpose is…I have only been asked once and that person accepted my above explanation.
For better reference, and for differences of opinions, please check out this classic post on the LinkedIn Answers board concerning whether or not to keep your LinkedIn contacts private.
I believe the above should give you further reasoning why so many people keep their contacts private and why they will respect you if you decide to do the same.