When we were in kindergarten, we could walk up to another kid and just say “Hey, wanna be my friend?”
It was as simple as that. No context was needed and then we’d run off and play.
Can you imagine if that worked in the business world? “Hey, can I work here?” and then you’d go find a desk and start working.
We all think that sounds ridiculous, but that is the way most people approach networking on LinkedIn. Not a day goes by that I don’t receive at least 2-3 connection requests with nothing more than the stock connection request email automatically generated by LinkedIn.
Occasionally, I will write back to the person to ask them how they found me or what it was about my profile/experience made them want to reach out to me. And this is when I see the second break in the chain. . . many of them never respond!
If you thought I was a good person with whom to connect and here I am engaging in the dialogue, why would you respond to that with radio silence? I’ll be honest, it is only because of my work mentoring younger engineers and wanting to teach them the “right way” that I even throw them this lifeline. Getting this second chance is rare as most people would have ignored the initial, canned request.
It is important to realize that you often have one chance to make that connection. So you want to put your best foot forward for that initial first impression.
Here are 3 actionable steps you should take today to improve the chances that someone accepts your connection request:
ACTION ITEM #1 – Add a personal note. LinkedIn gives the opportunity to add some personalized text whenever you reach out to someone and add a short note about WHY you want to connect with them.It is important to be specific. You can mention the article they wrote recently that you liked and what specific part you found the most interesting. Or perhaps they made a compelling comment on someone else’s post that got you intrigued. Close the note by telling them you’d appreciate them adding you to their network.
Remember to pick the words that work for you and make them personal. Don’t use the same exact text over and over. They are likely to pick up how fake you are being; like the guy who sent me a connection three times with the note ‘Hey, wanna connect? Let’s build our networks’.
ACTION ITEM #2 – Use a 3rd party connector. If you showed up as a stranger to a party, people would question why you were there. However, if you walked in with your friend as their plus one. Similarly, if you want to connect with someone and see you have a mutual connection with whom you are close, it can be worthwhile to reach out to that connection and ask them to make an introduction. Let that person bridge the “stranger gap”.While this is not necessary for most connections, I find that this works very well when you are trying to connect with someone who is higher up the ladder and less likely to want to make seemingly random connections.
ACTION ITEM #3 – Improve your own profile. When you do reach out to someone, one of the first things they will likely do is check out your profile. This is why it is important to make sure that your profile is as fully developed as possible and presents your experience and background accurately.
Try to avoid using jargon like “go getter” and instead give specifics of some of your projects. Join several groups to highlight your interests both professionally and personally. You don’t need to be as active as I am on LinkedIn, but it is good to add comments to posts or share articles so that the activity portion of your profile can also tell your story.
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Subhransu Nanda says
I found this article really helpful. I’m searching for a job since 6 months. I’m finding it hard because I don’t have the skills to connect on LinkedIn or in an event. I would love to be connected with you and gain some pointers. Thanks for sharing the article and having a good attitude.
6 months can be a long time to look, but don’t get discouraged. It is important to stay focused and positive so you can present yourself in the best light.
Start out slow by connecting at local events perhaps for an engineering society. In order to not let yourself get overwhelmed, go with a small goal and then leave when you reach that goal. Perhaps that goal is to meet two new people or to make small talk at the table for 10 minutes. Breaking it down like this makes it seem much less daunting.
VAHID BEHRAVAN says
I like and appreciate the way Sol breaks down the power of networking into simple steps. Although some of the advice appears to be self-evident, but most of the time the user cannot follow it to make their effective networking.
Could you give also some examples of how you can keep your current network active.
I keep it active by always being on alert for ways to help them or re-connect. This can be as simple as passing along an article that I know they’ll appreciate or a book recommendation. Also, if I see, for example, a notification in LinkedIn of an update to their profile, then I’ll use that as a reminder to reach out. Also, eve if I won’t see them, when I travel to a city where a contact is located I’ll drop them a line to connect.
It’s also a good idea to save email threads so that you can reference them in the future and build off those interactions.