One of my clients asked me for some tips when contacting LinkedIn members. She’s been trying, but gets no response – and even more discouraging are the cold replies that make her feel very shy about trying again. One person she contacted replied simply “See our website.” Ouch.
But of course, LinkedIn members, especially ones from large companies who get contacted all the time, can’t be expected to jump to the aid of just anyone who finds their name. And LOTS of people find their names!
What NOT to do when networking on LinkedIn
- Approach someone by asking a question that can easily be found on their website.
- Send the standard automated LinkedIn “I’d like to connect with you…” request.
- Think that everyone is going to respond – or at least the way you want them to do. Some people just delete communication from people they don’t know, including LinkedIn members they are connected to. Many people accept LinkedIn invitations without even checking the person out, creating weak 1st party connections – and even weaker ones at the 2nd and 3rd party level.
- Use sloppy language / grammar / spelling or worse yet Tweet-speak or text-speak.
- Leave your own LinkedIn profile only partially filled out or pointing in a direction that has nothing to do with what you’re aiming for now.
- Push for a job directly in your initial communication.
- Give up trying to connect with more members after a few failed attempts.
How to help you get a response on LinkedIn
Think about it … if it takes nothing but joining to be a member, why should that be a golden ticket to someone’s knowledge or connections or valuable time? So you are going to have to do something extra to catch the person’s attention – and help them want to help you.
What should you do when you contact someone?
Just like with a resume, you only have a few seconds to get them interested enough to pay attention to what you wrote. So, as with a resume, make sure you target each note to the person you are sending it to. If you can’t take the time to do that, why should they take the time to help you?
- Do your research before ever initiating contact. See if you have someone or something in common.
- Add your own words to the invitation to connect. Instructions from LinkedIn here. If you need the person’s email, you can often find it on the company website or by googling the info. More daring folks might even try calling the person’s company for it.
- Find a unique opening line and subject header to catch their eye, because often that’s all they’ll ever read.
- Keep it short and make every sentence count. This shows you respect them and their time. And it helps you as you try to engage them in your job or career search adventure.
- Make sure you are asking them for something concrete that they are an expert in. “I’m new to Chicago and would like 10 to 15 minutes of your time to ask a few questions about some good local groups to connect with in the area of environmental resource management. I’ll be looking for a job, but first want to get a better understanding of the local scene.” (Notice that you are not putting them under any pressure about a job, just information for someone eager to learn. But, you did clue them in about what your goal is.)
- Keep your note polite, natural in tone, and professional in quality. By that I mean it should be well-written and error-free, but not stiff. You want to win them over in just a few lines.
- If you’ve tried and there was no response after a week or two (this may happen a lot), don’t be afraid to send one more note, assuring them that you just want to make sure they received it, asking again for a bit of their time. If they don’t respond this time, leave them alone – at least for now. You may one day have a great reason to contact them again, so you want to leave a good impression this go-round.
What about the Request an Introduction feature on Linkedin?
Finding someone you know who also knows the person you want to connect with is a great way to go. So if at all possible, get introduced through a mutual first party connection. But just remember that even first-party LinkedIn connections can be pretty weak.
To ask for help, I would first contact your connection personally. Explain your exciting new career path / job quest (get them engaged) and ask if they could connect you directly (best of all). Or, if they prefer, you could send them a Request via LinkedIn. This will take more time, but the success rate should be higher. Plus you’ll find out in advance if they really know the other person. And … they may just have other ideas.
Of course, you can always try the Request an Introduction tool, especially if you have no especially close route to comfortably request direct help from LinkedIn members. But the strongest connections are the ones you take the extra time to build. One-to-one engagement, whenever possible, is really your best ally.
Oh … and if you haven’t even begun building your support network, today is the best time to start building a network for the rest of your career.
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