Part 2: Examples of how to and how not to grow your professional network

The way you approach someone on LinkedIn can mean the difference between making a connection and possibly getting an “I Don’t Know this user” (IDK) strike against you. Trust me; you do not want the latter. Patrick tells you why better than I can.

I have only given out one (IDK) since being on the site for over four years. See if you can figure out who it might have been – their response to me is included in the examples.

In “Part 1: Does your networking approach give you the best pay back”, there were two descriptions of networkers and you probably guessed which one describes my approach on LinkedIn.

As you may have surmised in Part 1, it is acceptable to develop a strategy that says you want to connect with people in different ways on various mediums.

There is an individual responsibility to let people know how you would like to approach these different networks – it might be in writing in your profile or it may be how you define who can connect with you under certain circumstances.

There is an option to refine your contact settings in your profile to let people know if you are interested in:

  • Career opportunities
  • Consulting offers
  • New ventures
  • Job Inquiries
  • Expertise requests
  • Business deals
  • Personal reference requests
  • Requests to connect

After selecting your preferences, there is an open text field where you can elaborate on the question, “What advice would you give users considering connecting with you?”

This is what my LinkedIn profile says:

There are several different approaches to being a member of a person’s LinkedIn network. Some people are power networkers; I choose to establish knowledgeable and tangible relationships with individuals. I believe being able to recommend a person is a key indicator. I am open to new relationships and recognize it takes time to cultivate on both sides. To your continued success, Lynn Dessert

Here is common situation, a stranger requests to connect with you. They may be an open networker and my hunch is that they quickly scanned or did not read your profile before hitting the “send” button.

How can you tell? Because the majority of these requests utilize the default message:

I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

Where is the personal message? What makes you think that they really want to get to know you? You begin to wonder, why do they want to connect? Will you ever hear from them again?

If someone knew you eons ago in a former employer, you may receive this message:

Since you are a person I trust, I wanted to invite you to join my network on LinkedIn.

Hint to the sender – the longer you have been out of touch, the more appropriate it is for you to send a personal update and ask your contact what is going on their life. You may or may not receive a response but you will trigger their memory and avoid the IDK response.

To increase your connection success rate with strangers, it is essential that you communicate with them why you want to connect, instead of sending the default message.

Here are some of the requests I received over the years:

Lynn, Thanks for taking the time to meet with me. It was appreciated. Thanks also for the contacts; I will let you know how they progress. I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

Lynn, it was great to meet you Friday at the RPCN meeting. Thank you for the suggestions – Blog and TCM contact info.

I saw your question and realized we had a common business opportunity but in different continents. We also run a change management consultancy in the UK and thought we might want to share common practice It would be great to connect.

Hi Lynn, I came across your response regarding coaching on Feedback Strategies. I believe you may very well be a fellow Feedback Enthusiast.I would be thrilled if you would join my network!

We met on Twitter and are members of LinkedIn 2 Leadership. You may be able to help my business and clients. I may be able to help yours. I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

Read your bio while looking for a resource for a client. Please check out my Summary and personal core values, and let me know if you think there is an opportunity to connect here. Take care

In each of these situations, I had met the requester or they knew something about what I did. They reinforced or created the opportunity for a connection together.

Here is an example of a request from someone who is trying to manage his or her network and avoid the IDK problem.

Hello, I have recently discovered Linked In and I am reaching out to old colleges and to make new friends. I would like to add you to my network. If you do not want to connect now please, select archive and I will withdraw my invitation. If I can be of help in the future please don’t hesitate to contact me anytime. Regards,

When someone approaches me that I do not know I send this response or one very similar:

Hello (Name),

I appreciate the feedback on the article and request for linking in. It is wonderful that groups give us an opportunity to interact without having a direct connection.

My approach to LinkedIn is to connect with people that I know personally through business or have cultivated a relationship beyond this medium. The relationships I have are built on trust and support of both parties goals.

I am always open to doing that by phone. If this is of interest, we can schedule sometime in the near future and get to know one another on a more personal level.

Lynn

P.S. If by chance you want to connect because you have interest in the Elephants at Work blog, there is an RSS feed or e-mail option on the website to receive the latest articles and keep in touch.

The reason I use this response is three-fold:

  1. I want them to understand I connect with people I know.
  2. I am willing to do cultivate a relationship.
  3. If they want to stay in touch, there are other ways to do it.

Often people do not take the next step and invest in a mutual beneficial relationship. That is OK with me. Sometimes, I get responses like these:

I appreciate the response and the explanation. In an effort to expand my LinkedIn network, I have chosen to reach out to others who are members of LinkedIn groups that are in my field. Best of luck in your endeavors.

I can understand setting the boundaries with social networking. I believe we offer complementary services. If you are interested in talking to get acquainted let me know.

The idea was to connect with you based on the article, also to build up my network. Furthermore to look at opportunities coming up within the group, should you be expanding in India. However, your point is well taken on linked in network.

I actually appreciate your way of approaching this site. Bottom line, it will allow all groups members to be accurately oriented while searching business opportunities or sharing experiences. Anyway, once u r interested in sharing any kind of infos, or needing others don t hesitate to contact me.

Hi Madam, A person wants to join you what’s the problem behind that. I honor your approach & attitude towards professional front. I respect your each & every word towards life & contacts. I like your profile on the HR front. That’s the reason I want to add you, I liked your experiences in HR….Please reply once if I win.

Now it is your turn. Do you have a response you can share that works well or one that bombed? Please remove identifying information or I will before it goes to press!

Author: Lynn Dessert

Lynn Dessert is a certified ICF and NLP Coach specializing in Executive Career coaching in Charlotte NC. She works with individuals to accelerate their career advancement and organizations to fast track leadership skill development. Her career eBooks What To Do After Being Fired and The Secrets to Successful Job On-Boarding give you a roadmap to DIY. Start your discovery process by contacting her at 704.412.2852 today.

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