When Andrew Marcus, the 27-year-old CEO and founder of MyTennisLessons.com, was in need of a new tennis pro for his sports coaching startup in 2013, he immediately logged on to LinkedIn.
He was cruising members with the proper credentials when he happened upon Rosalia Lopez de Alda, a 26-year-old professional tennis player with the Women’s Tennis Association — the same group to which Serena and Venus Williams belong. His first thoughts weren’t about her good looks (she didn’t even have a picture on her LinkedIn profile), but about her tennis game.
“I was curious if I could beat her,” says Marcus, the former captain of the UConn tennis team. After the pair exchanged several messages on LinkedIn and Marcus did some due diligence — such as finding Alda’s photo online — he invited her to bat a few balls around on a local tennis court.
“Do I need to bring Mace?” was one of Alda’s early, flirty responses. But she had a pretty good idea of whom she was dealing with, as she’d done research on her own after viewing his LinkedIn credentials.
The two, both based in Texas, hit it off, and have been dating ever since.
In July, a UK marketing executive’s comments went viral after shaming a man who tried to ask her out for a date via LinkedIn, a professional-networking site that currently boasts more than 450 million members. And while it may not be as closely associated with the dating game as apps such as Tinder, eligible, career-minded singles are using LinkedIn not just to find jobs but love as well.
“If sharing career interests or finding a significant other who is successful professionally is important to you, it is an amazing resource,” says Roy Cohen, a career counselor, executive coach and author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.”
“Think about LinkedIn as a starting point in terms of getting to know someone, first on a professional basis and then, if there is something more — a spark — allowing it to morph,” says Cohen.
That’s what happened with Katie Doble, vice president at staffing firm the Creative Group.
Katie had been looking for a life partner in a myriad of ways: She joined a church, played on recreational sports teams five days a week, showed up at networking events with a hopeful heart and more.
Despite her open mind, countless efforts and massive network of friends, Mr. Right seemed nowhere to be found.
Except on LinkedIn, where Katie spends much of her day looking for business leads. When she first came across the profile of Nick Doble, an area manager at Booking.com, she sent him a LinkedIn invitation to connect with the intention of doing business together. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, he’s cute,’ when I saw his picture on his profile,” says Katie.
But when Nick responded, the flirting began. “It became pretty clear, pretty quickly, that we wouldn’t be doing business,” she says. But the two kept exchanging messages anyway. Eventually, Katie invited Nick to meet for coffee or a drink under the pretense of networking.
“We both knew it was a date,” she says. The date ended in a kiss, and the two wed in 2015 and live together in Denver, Colo.
But before you boot up your LinkedIn app and start firing off requests to the cutest professionals in your feed, know that your advances may not always be welcome.
First off, that’s not what LinkedIn is for, says April Masini, an etiquette and relationship expert. “[On LinkedIn] people should pretend they’re in a conference room before flirting, and then decide if what they’re about to say is best left unsaid — or better said in person, over lunch or on a weekend, where there’s no mistaking work for pleasure.”
Besides, you could be hitting on someone who isn’t available, warns dating and relationship coach John Keegan.
“While anything goes in dating, dating from LinkedIn can be a shot in the dark. You don’t know who is single and who isn’t,” he says, explaining that with LinkedIn, all you’re getting is an idea of an individual’s focus in life and what they have achieved professionally.
“What they do at work has absolutely nothing to do with how they are in a relationship,” says Keegan.
Still, if you see someone on LinkedIn and absolutely can’t resist hitting on them, “Get the personal [details] off the professional site,” says Masini. She suggests exchanging personal email addresses, if the other party is willing. But even then, it’s a hedged bet.
“If you’re trying to turn someone on, LinkedIn is like debate club in high school. It’s not where people who want a date flock to hook up,” says Masini.
But Cohen wouldn’t rule LinkedIn out: “Lots of people meet through work, so meeting through a career site for something more than professional development isn’t far-fetched.”