Thursday, March 14, 2013

Three Strategies for Connecting with People You Don't Know on LinkedIn

In the midst of an active job search, the ability to land a job is often directly connected with your networking efforts. The larger your network, the greater your chances of gaining access to the elusive "hidden job market." This often means making an attempt to connect with people you don't know in order to network your way into a company. 

Unless the person with whom you are trying to connect is a LinkedIn Open Networker (LION), then you may find some resistance and your requests may go ignored. If you have too many people click the I Don't Know or Ignore button to your connection requests on LinkedIn, you may end up with your account restricted. The best course of action is to ask someone in your network to make a person introduction. If that is not an option, use these strategies to boost your success rate.

Customize Your Invitation
LinkedIn provides you with a template for your connection request. It reads "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn." This impersonal template gives the reader the impression that you could not spare the time and make the effort to send a personal request. Instead, take the time to write a short note - LinkedIn only gives you 300 characters - about why this person should consider connecting with you. 

For example, a job seeker may write something such as "We've never met but I admire the ABC Company's dedication to advancing technology in the solar energy field. Can we connect? I'd love to learn more about your company." Remember, successful networkers never talk about what others can do for them. Therefore, asking directly for job leads from an HR manager will be a definite red flag.

Research the Person
Once you have the name of a person, go out and conduct research on this person. Look for articles or blogs they have written, organizations where they have membership or other facts that you can use to make a personal connection. Use this information to customize your invite, as mentioned above. For example, a job seeker may say "I just read your article on (fill in the blank) and completely agree with your point of view. I would love to connect with you professionally so we can continue to share ideas." Simply providing context of why you want to connect will be often enough to convince them to click the "connect" button.

Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile First
Whenever I receive a connection request from someone I don't know, the first thing I do is look at their profile to determine if they are someone with whom I would like to network. Make sure your profile is updated and in the best possible format before you start making requests. Use this previous blog post to evaluate your profile. 

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