Here's something I've been seeing an alarmingly large volume of in recent months.
For the record, I very much like LinkedIn. I've been working professionally for long enough that I've lost track of a number of coworkers over the years. LinkedIn provides me an opportunity to keep tabs on past contacts, congratulate them on recent career changes and also to make contact with them again in the future.
I was discussing the topic of LinkedIn with students at Ringling College of Art & Design this past December. I told them that I was happy to connect with any of them (a group of ~50 students who had shown up to see my presentation) and provide feedback or career guidance. However, I had a single stipulation:
You must write something other than the standard / default LinkedIn request in the body of your message!
Does that sound too harsh?
Here's the thing. I openly admit that, without networking, I would not be working in the industry today. I had a very difficult time finding a job out of school. My introduction to the games industry came as a result of week-after-week calling sales reps for the major 3d software packages at the time (Discreet, Softimage, Alias|wavefront -- damn, just dated myself there!) I had to be persistent, but I built solid connections which in turn resulted in them pointing me towards a job opening.
The reason I despise the default LinkedIn request is that it represents the basest, lowest common denominator. In my mind, it signals the intent to connect, but the capacity to only put in the minimum required effort.
There are people for whom I make allowances, however. Due to my frequent speaking and face-to-face networking at GDC, I never can remember who I have and who I have not met in the past. Therefore, I'm willing to forgive working professionals in the same way that I would accept such a message from past colleagues. I'm also equally guilty with not consistently sending an appropriate message within this group....
However, if I know I don't know you, then don't expect a response from me. Not with a default greeting. And this goes double for you students out there.
Here's the thing to remember: relationships take effort. If we don't know each other yet, that's fine. All it takes is for you to explain why you want to connect or how you came across my contact information. My career was built on networking and I like affording others the same consideration that I received.
You just can't make do with the default introduction. It makes you look lazy. It makes you look insincere. And it makes me hit the IGNORE button immediately.
For the record, every student from Ringling took my advice and sent me a personal greeting. I connected with every one of them. Everyone. Well. All but one. :)