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4 Essentials For Networking With Strangers On LinkedIn

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Last week, I received an info interview request from a total stranger as a direct message on LinkedIn. And despite my very busy schedule, I decided to take his call. Over the weekend, I asked myself, “Why did I agree?”

Let’s take his e-mail apart and put it into four essential elements so you can use them in your own LinkedIn networking communications. Networking with strangers on LinkedIn can give you great results if you’re deliberate in the process.

First, here’s the e-mail I got over LinkedIn from J.:

Hi Joshua,

 

I noticed we are both connected to M. F. – how do you know M.? I first met her at J.P., and she actually photographed my wedding. Small world.

 

I wanted to touch base with you because I saw an open position at J.R. I thought would be a great fit for me. I’m located in Portland now, and do social media strategy for a digital marketing agency here in town.

 

It’s a fun role, but you know how agencies are – fingers in a lot of different businesses, but no ability to truly own a marketing program. It looks like I would be able to do that with the Marketing Communications Manager role that is posted.

 

Would you mind if I called you some time this week to hear about your experience at J.R. and your perspective on the marketing organization there? I’d really appreciate it.

1. Lead With Something In Common

My interviewee, J., began his e-mail by pointing out our mutual friend M.F., and although I know M.F. from my sister’s college days, what really got my attention was M.F. was the photographer at her wedding.

Now, with LinkedIn, there is a danger the first degree connection isn’t really a close friend. I went through an Open Networking phase and about 100 people in my LinkedIn network are complete strangers to me.

So don’t assume just because they’re connected, they know each other.

J. took a calculated risk. However, he mitigates that risk by further sharing a personal tid-bit…he’s married. And as another recently married guy, I can very much relate to his situation. (i.e. He has my sympathy.)

2. Get To The Point – Fast

J. wastes no time for BS or apologies. He’s writing to me because he saw an open position at a company I have a relationship with and thinks he’d be a fit.

Notice he says, “I saw an open position.” He doesn’t assume I know anything about this position. In fact, it was news to me. And so I can infer he’s not assuming I’m any kind of decision maker. I know this is going to be a purely informational interview.

Furthermore, he concludes the e-mail by re-affirming that he’s just looking to hear about my experience with J.R., the company and my perspective on their marketing organization.

My guard goes down because I know he’s not going to put me on the spot or ask me for more than just my opinion.

3. What Makes Him Qualified?

Without bragging, J. makes it clear that he’s a serious candidate, not one of those job fisherman.

He tells me he already works at an agency. And that even though he enjoys the agency, he’s looking for more. He wants to “truly own a marketing program.”

It might occur to me, after all, that if he already has a job, why is he looking to make a change? That concern is assuaged.

4. What Do You Want From Me?

He concludes his e-mail with, “Would you mind if I called you sometime this week…” meaning, I won’t have to do anything except wait for a phone call and talk to him. Sounds easy.

I would have even mentioned the exact amount of time such a conversation would have taken, “Would you mind if I called you this week for just 10 or 15 minutes?”

Other Observations

You may have also noticed…

  • The e-mail was VERY short. It took me less than 30 seconds to read it.
  • He named the position he was after by name, he did his research and I know he won’t waste my time
  • He is sensitive to and grateful for my time, “I would really appreciate it…”

The next time you are reaching out to someone new over LinkedIn, consider bringing in one or more of these elements to your message. I’m sure it will make a big difference in your response rate.

Any successful messages on LinkedIn? Share them with us in the comments section below so we can learn from your brilliance!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Joshua Waldman

Author of Job Searching with Social Media For Dummies, Joshua is recognized as the authority for helping people find work using social media. His blog, Careerenlightenment.com, won the 2013 About.com Reader's Choice award for best career blog for original content.

18 comments

  1. Very accurate article, since LinkedIn has some issues about connecting/ communicating with total strangers. I respect the fact that most people don’t want to interfere with following/connecting requests around the globe, but on the other hand, it makes it hard to keep in touch with people you really look up to and want to be updated for their work.

  2. thanks for the insights :) was thinking to take your opinion on the message i send to potential costumers on linked in ,
    please feel free to tell me how do you feel about it

    Dear “Name”

    Its my pleasure to get to contact with you here on linked-in .
    This is Ahmed Hamed a Film director and writer based in Cairo ..

    Sending herewith my you-tube channel reel, I’d be very glad if
    you take a look at it and consider it for the upcoming projects.

    http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMPEB62iP7XgRUzDwSJVc5Q

    Looking forward to hearing back from you

    With regards,

    Ahmed Hamed
    Director / Writer
    mob: +2 0122 3212 767
    email: ahmedhamedfilms@gmail.com
    YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMPEB62iP7XgRUzDwSJVc5Q

    your feedback is highly appreciated !!

    with regards,
    Ahmed

  3. This was a very helpful article. I have noticed that in other articles I have read, people often mention the need to offer some benefit to the recipient. In this email, he doesn’t give you any reasons why this might be beneficial to you. Would you say that it’s not a necessary component, or simply that this particular email hit on other points that made you want to do it anyway.

  4. I’ve just sent a similar message with a request to connect through LinkedIn today. I’m curious… so far the person I sent it to accepted my request to connect, but with no reply to the message about it being okay to call. In your opinion, is it acceptable to proactively call on them anyway? Or would that be overstepping a boundary?

  5. >And as another recently married guy, I can very much relate to his situation. (i.e. He has my sympathy.)

    Was this parenthetical comment really necessary? It mars an otherwise fine article. Wouldn’t it be enough to leave it at “As another recently married guy, I can relate to his situation”? I understand the aside is meant to be a joke, but I find its “wink wink nudge nudge just us guys” humor unnecessary and irritating.

    • I totally agree, Amy. “Mars” is the perfect word–I wanted to stop reading right there.

      Joshua: since you probably didn’t mean to insult your spouse or contribute to a systemic bias against women in the professional world, you should consider the effect of these kinds of one-off comments in your future work. I understand the impulse, but I’m hoping to politely communicate just how frustrating this kind of humor is for women attempting to be taken seriously in the workplace (and being told they are already succeeding).

      • While you’re free to feel however you like about his joke, if you want to be taken seriously in the workplace, on this website or anywhere else, try commenting with something related to the topic that adds something to the discussion. Concentrating on the 4 words out of over 700 words that offended you doesn’t really help your goal. It also probably doesn’t do too much for you to presume to speak for his wife, who you have never met and you have no indication of whether she was insulted by his comment or not.

  6. Every contact eastablishes with a reference , as you told in the story ” I first met her at J.P., and she actually photographed my wedding. Small world” here he used the medium of blood relation of your sister.Either it could be the relation of blood, color, country, language, religion and nothing but the reference. I am the active member of linked In. Inspite of the 17 years experince of jobs. I did not catch any job as i wanted to settle in Europe.

  7. Good article Josh.

    Using mutual connections to introduce me to a new LinkedIn contact is by far the most successful way I have built a strong LinkedIn network. By doing this I have found that when I need help my connections are acceptable to helping me. I reciprocate when I can which shows that I believe in Mutually Beneficial Networking.

    Thanks for sharing these ideas Josh.

  8. Thanks for the “nuts ‘n’ bolts” of reaching out to stranger and the reasoning behind it all. I reached out to a connection for an introduction and was told that he met his connection once and wouldn’t feel comfortable introducing me. It happens.

  9. Great advice for those looking to use LinkedIn to make meaningful connections. Having been the recipient of a request similar to the one in Joshua’s example, I can confirm that I was more than happy to share my experience with the requestor.

  10. I found the post informative. In a few weeks I will be looking for work and it has been a while since I have been in the job market. Reading informative post on careers is educational and helpful. Thank you.

  11. Joshua, this is an excellent analysis of how someone can make very effective use of LinkedIn. I am daily surprised by some of the things I see people do on the site, just because they can, never considering whether they should, or how they should.

  12. I totally agree with Gordon as using mentioned technique is workable however is dependable and this example purely fits in fisherman scenario using smaller fish as a bait no offense to no one just an opinion.However analyzing the profile activity of a stranger can surely tell whome to reach out for. As on Linked In the idea of connection building is increasing professional domain rather personal at first place i suppose.

  13. Thank you for this example. I have struggled with this type of what I call “cold calling”, via online communications. What I would really like to understand is how I can reach out to a total stranger with no known connections, to assist learning about how to change into their field, without them being threatened, expecting that I want them to find employment with them.

    • Really wonderful post. I know for me it helps to view a person’s profile and see if there isn’t something that I can give them a sincere complement on. Then I tell them I am on Linked In to network with other business professional and ask if they would be interested. I think the soft sell approach works best.

      • Being someone who hates “cold calling” in any form, I really appreciate your comments as a job seeker and a member of a non-profit organization that is trying to build up membership. This is advice I would feel comfortable following.

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