How to Introduce Yourself to a Stranger

I received a 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.

how to introduce yourself to a stranger online

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.

Jeni Smith
[Job Title]

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.


Dave Bell
[phone number here]

My polite sample message from Dave includes these parts:

  1. A referral from someone Mr. Wilson presumably knows
  2. A reason for the message
  3. A little background on the writer and what he is looking for
  4. A specific request
  5. Contact information

graphic listing key points to an online introduction

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.

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

5 comments on “How to Introduce Yourself to a Stranger”

  • Hi Lynn: I am a huge fan of LinkedIn, but have seen a change since joining. More and more people are attempting to use it like they would other types of social media, e.g., building huge number of followers, blasting you with self-serving links to their products or services.

    I hope the professional networking platform doesn’t go by the wayside as it continues to grow.

    While I think I’m a bit more accepting of certain communications through LinkedIn, I totally agree that a person asking to connect should offer you something other than the standard, pre-populated invitation, especially when you don’t know the person.

    Thank you for your perspective on LinkedIn.

  • I agree with you Cathy and thanks Lynn for posting. I experience the same endeavor too. I believe that in this digital world we have to make sure not to forget the human touch and what you have posted here in this blog is exactly what I believe in.

  • Dear Lynn,

    I love the informative post and the blog in general. Also, may I send you a LinkedIn invite? (Kidding.)

    Have an excellent day and keep up the good work.


  • Lynn,

    Very informative suggestions.

    I didn’t feel comfortable using the standard, pre-populated invitation asking people to connect with me. Now that I read your perspective it gave me insight to offer more.

    I agree with Cathy Miller too.

  • I don’t know how it happened, but it seems that I did not respond to any of your comments. Please accept my apology, Cathy, Aldous, Wm., and Diane.

    I am glad you shared your views, and I apologize for not having joined the discussion.


Comments are closed.