Thanks for your question. This line of thinking often comes up when talking about connections between junior employees and more senior employees within one company, between community members and those deemed as icons in the area, between people for whom there is a significant age gap. What I have found is irrespective of your title or your position or your status in the community or your age, you ALWAYS have something of value to offer. For starters, think about what you can provide to the person with whom you seek a connection.
By way of example, I often share with young people that their technology and/or social media prowess is likely to be far greater than that of more senior people in their companies or by older members of their communities. As such, they have that expertise to offer in return.
Another example is for very senior leaders in an organization, they are often disconnected from the realities that plague their customer base – a more junior person can offer better insight into what is really going on out there on the street.
In terms of who do I decide to connect with when others reach out to me, my general approach is always to say, “Yes!” to connecting. That said, if I receive a request to connect via LinkedIn but the requester does not tell me how we know one another, why we should connect or what mutual value we can provide to one another, I do not accept the invitation.
When I am the one doing the asking, whether it is to a person of great influence or otherwise, I always seek a mutual connection. If our mutual connection is willing to make an introduction, half the battle is already won! Even if our mutual connection is willing to let me use his/her name when I reach out to the person of influence, that individual is much more likely to accept my invitation if he/she knows we have someone/something/some place in common.
I welcome your additional thoughts.