LinkedIn offers tremendous networking opportunities. The site has more than 985 million members worldwide, according to its “about us” page. And many of those people — whether they are in your industry or not — likely have valuable work insights to share.
So, how do you go about connecting with them, especially with the ones you’ve never actually met? When it comes to adding people to your LinkedIn network, “never” simply click the “connect” button, says Gorick Ng, author of “The Unspoken Rules” and a career advisor at Harvard.
Here’s how he and other career experts recommend reaching out to people on the site.
Trying to add someone to your LinkedIn network who you’ve never met can be tricky, but just pressing “connect” won’t necessarily convince them to add you.
It’s “low effort,” says Ng. “All it shows is that you were able to push a button.” It doesn’t show why you were interested in connecting with them in the first place. It doesn’t show that you care about their career journey and are inspired by what they’re doing.
Plus, “that can be perceived as a red flag,” says Angelina Darrisaw, career coach and founder and CEO of C-Suite Coach. “There is a lot of spam” on the site, she says. And you could come off as just a random person trying to connect with everyone they see.
Instead of just adding someone, “include a note,” says Octavia Goredema, career coach and author of “PREP, PUSH, PIVOT.”
When you add a connection, LinkedIn gives you the option to add a note. You have up to 300 characters to explain why you’re reaching out. “Say, ‘hi, so and so,'” says Ng. “Like you I’m also a blank interested in blank. I’d love to connect with you.”
Fill in those blanks according to why you’re reaching out specifically to make it clear you’re not just adding anyone on the site. You’re reaching out to them specifically because their background and expertise appeals to you.
“Your goal with this connection message is for them to just even accept it,” says Ng. “Keep it short. Keep it specific.”
Once they do, you can consider how you’d want to build on that connection going forward, asking them for a 15-minutes informational interview about their professional history, for example, or simply engaging with the content they are posting.
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