LinkedIn is the largest professional social network, and often our go-to place to reach out to people we want to connect with in the industry. But reaching out isn't easy—people get a lot of messages, you're limited in characters when you invite then to connect...which they have to agree to do before you can even send a longer message (unless, of course, you have a Premium account, but very few students and young talent do). Here are three ways to improve your LinkedIn outreach to increase your chances of getting a response.
1) Include a note when you invite someone to connect.
LinkedIn serves up this little tip when you request to connect with someone, but I sort of wish the platform would make it mandatory to include a note. When I talk to guests on the podcast, a common pet peeve is when people reach out with zero context whatsoever. Don't assume that because you're a student, because you went to the same school, or because you have a lot of mutual connections that someone will agree to connect with you. A quick note will give them an easy way to make an informed decision over whether to accept your invitation.
2) State who you are/why you're reaching out to them specifically.
If you've crossed paths with this person in the past—at a conference or a lecture at your school—remind them of this interaction. If a mutual acquaintance suggested you reach out, drop their name. Did you hear them on a podcast? Mention that you listened to their episode. And if you're reaching out completely cold, be explicit about why you're wanting to connect with them specifically. What about their experience or career path caught your eye? Is there something that you admire about them? You don't have to lay the flattery on thick, but make it clear that reaching out to them was a considered choice vs. a blind blast to a bunch of people.
3) Be specific about what you're asking for.
This is the most frequently given piece of advice on reaching out: be specific about what you're asking for. And saying you want to "pick your brain" or "hear more about your experience" isn't specific enough. What exactly do you want to know? How can this person uniquely help you? For example, "I'm interested in your transition from account management to strategy and how you made the switch." Or if you're asking them to review your portfolio, give them a singular focus. Make it easier for the person to say yes, because they have a starting point and clear objective vs. a vague idea of what you want to know. Help them, help you!
And as always, if you reach out to someone and don't hear back, don't let it bring you down. You'll never know why someone didn't respond, and assuming that they made some sort of judgement of you and decided not to respond isn't something you need weighing on you. Plus, there are plenty of fish in the LinkedIn sea.
You got this,