Today I received another LinkedIn request from someone who wants to connect with me. This was the entire message:
I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
I do not know Jeni. I do not know why she wants to be part of my professional network.
My only choices on my free version of LinkedIn are to accept or ignore the request. What should I do?
Rather than adding to my network a stranger about whom I know nothing, I will ignore Jeni's request.
Granted, I could research her online. Jeni's last name was included with the request, and I could do an Internet search or even a LinkedIn search to try to find out something about her. But why would I do that work without a good reason?
If you want to connect with someone professionally, why not write your request so that the other person will feel positive about connecting with you?
If you are using a networking service such as LinkedIn, tailor your request to join someone's network. For example, Jeni might have written something like this:
I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. I am beginning to develop business writing classes at my company, _________ [name of company], and I would like to connect with you about approaches, content, resources, and other topics.
If I had received a message like that, I would have accepted her request because it is specific. It would have helped me understand why we might have something in common and might mutually benefit from being connected.
If you want to email a stranger to introduce yourself, be clear about your reason for writing. Do you want advice from the other person? Would you like an answer to a question? Would you like to have coffee to discuss a business challenge? Know what you want so you can make your request clear.
Consider this example as an email request:
Subject: Request Regarding Music Business Internships
Dear Mr. Wilson,
My friend Debra Jones suggested I write to you. She thought you might be willing to share your advice on finding an internship in the music business. I am graduating next week from Ballard High School and am excited to be starting the music business program at USC in late August. Until then, I am available for a few weeks this summer and would like to get experience in the industry.
I have good computer skills, and I am open to lots of experiences. I would prefer a paid internship, but I am open to volunteering too. I live in Seattle.
Would you be willing to talk with me by phone or in person? If so, please let me know.
Thank you for considering my request.
[phone number here]
My polite sample message from Dave includes these parts:
- A referral from someone Mr. Wilson presumably knows
- A reason for the message
- A little background on the writer and what he is looking for
- A specific request
- Contact information
If my fictitious Dave Bell did not know someone who could refer him to Mr. Wilson, he might have opened this way:
Dear Mr. Wilson,
My research on the Internet has informed me that you are a local Seattle expert in the music business. You have worked on Folklife, Bumbershoot, and other music festivals. I am writing to you as someone who might be willing to share your advice on finding an internship in the music business....
Too often people introducing themselves to strangers put very little effort into the message. The less the apparent effort, the less likely it is that someone will respond positively.
Do you have suggestions or views on how to introduce yourself to a stranger for networking or information-gathering purposes? Please share them here.