Q. I need to start actively networking on LinkedIn, but I find the idea of reaching out to strangers really intimidating. What tips do you have for making connections?
A. Cultivating a strong network on LinkedIn is a really smart idea and can be an incredibly powerful part of a career management strategy. However, unless you are especially outgoing, it can be really awkward to simply reach out to new people. Here are some tips that should help build more authentic connections on LinkedIn:
- Always send a personalized message when making a connection request.
- Provide the potential connection with some context. Let them know why you are reaching out and how you know (or know of) them.
- If the person you want to connect with has a strong presence on LinkedIn, consider using something they’ve posted (a blog or thought piece) as a starting point. That could sound like “I really enjoyed your piece on… and appreciated your point of review regarding…” You can then go on to tactfully ask a few (very) quick questions.
- If you find someone with whom you would like to connect, consider joining a group that that person is a member of. Now you have something in common! Then, when you do reach out for a connection or to ask a quick question, you can say, “I notice we are both members of the ‘Technology Management’ group.”
- Be very respectful of a potential connection’s time. Let them know that you are very aware that they are busy and would only ask one or two very quick questions.
Whether you are the world’s most outgoing person or someone who dies a little inside at thought of networking (or more likely somewhere in between) the above tips will help you to thoughtfully and tactfully build your professional network.