This is a story about LinkedIn, and whether you should talk to strangers.

LinkedIn has a new initiative called the "Plus One Pledge." As LinkedIn summarizes, it's "an intention to share your time, talent, or connections with people outside your network who may not have access to the same resources you do."

For example, LinkedIn suggests:

Do you ever receive out-of-network messages asking for career advice? Say yes to one! Share 30 minutes of your time on an informational interview.

Or else, they suggest doing things like "[f]inding community programs that will let you be a mentor to someone outside your network." 

Or else: "Make an introduction to a friend or colleague for someone navigating a job transition."

The point is that LinkedIn is wants to close what it calls "the network gap." It's easiest to explain with an example. Imagine two people: 

  1. Robin grew up with privilege, attended a top prep school, got a bachelor's degree at an Ivy League college, and started work at McKinsey & Co. or Goldman Sachs before heading back to Harvard or Stanford for an MBA. 
  2. Chris grew up in a disadvantaged community, worked 40 hours a week while getting through community college, and is now fighting to climb from the bottom of the corporate ladder.

On average, our networks are worth $249.52 -- or at least that's what they were worth in 2016, when Microsoft bought LinkedIn. The LinkedIn initiative basically asks people like Robin (who is above the $250 or so) to help people like Chris, by using their networks to open doors.

Now, this story is about to get a little bit meta, so please bear with me.

Because I wrote a quick post about the Plus One Pledge recently on Inc.com. 

I pointed out that by asking people to connect with others they don't know, LinkedIn was basically flying in the face of the advice it's been giving for years.

But, I missed something important -- frankly, I think most people did -- and the only reason I know about it now, ironically is that I have always been willing to connect with almost anyone on LinkedIn. 

So, meet Jakob Thusgaard, founder & CEO of a company called YourSales. He's based in the Netherlands. We've never talked in person, but he reached out and asked to connect over LinkedIn. 

The message he sent with his invitation pointed out that the Plus One Pledge didn't just go against tradition at LinkedIn. Instead, as he put it: "Did you know LinkedIn took 'don't connect to people you don't know' out of their T&C's in ... 2018?"

That was intriguing. No, I admit I did not know that.

I subscribe to the theory of "trust but verify," so, I first looked for any kind of announcement from LinkedIn that this had happened. Finding none, I compared the terms of service that are cached on the Internet Archives with the more recent version that was updated last year.

Among the changes is a line that appeared in the old version, but that doesn't appear anymore. The old version goes like this:

8.2. Don'ts. You agree that you will not...

  • [8 "dont's" listed as bullet points]
  • [Don't] "Invite people you do not know to join your network;"
  • [35 more bullet points]

New version as of 2018:

  • Only 18 "don'ts," listed as (a) through (r). 
  • The middle thing -- don't "invite people you do not know" -- is gone.

Look at that. Sure enough, LinkedIn is now asking people to do something via the Plus One Pledge that was previously flat out verboten, and spelled out right in the terms and conditions.

Now, it's actively encouraged. 

Anyway, I'm on board with the Plus One Challenge. I'm basically an open networker on LinkedIn -- and frankly every other platform -- because it opens my eyes to things I didn't know, lets me meet people I would not otherwise meet, and frankly helps me do my job better.

Should you be willing to do the same thing in your business? I suppose it depends on your industry. But LinkedIn sure seems to think so.

If not for your benefit, for someone else's. And then, down the road, maybe somebody else will do the same for you.