Your career is about who you know, sure. But it’s also about who you can get to know. That’s where LinkedIn comes in.
With over 400 million users, there’s no question LinkedIn reigns supreme as the go-to professional network. From your former roommate to the stranger with your dream job, every savvy woman (and man) seems to have an active account where they regularly post references, professional recommendations, and recommended reads.
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If you’re like most users, you’ve probably taken a laissez-faire approach to LinkedIn networking up until now, accepting connection requests from friends or former coworkers when they turn up in your inbox or maybe using LinkedIn’s recommendations to add some people yourself. But that means you’re missing a hugely underutilized opportunity: the network of professionals in your field who you just haven’t met yet.
Navigating that world of untapped connections with poise often brings uncertainty. After all, it’s arguably as hard to reach out to strangers online as it is in person. That’s exactly why we’re breaking down how to use LinkedIn to add cold contacts to three easy steps. Follow these and you’ll significantly up your LinkedIn game. Ready?
HOW TO USE LINKEDIN TO ADD COLD CONTACTS (3 STEPS)
1. FIND A SHARED LINKEDIN CONNECTION OR GROUP
One of the biggest benefits of using LinkedIn to make new contacts? You can visually see the connections that you share with others. For example, if you come across a profile of someone you’d like to contact, LinkedIn offers a convenient chart of your mutual connections. Use this to your advantage by reaching out to one of these shared contacts to ask for a virtual introduction, either through LinkedIn or via email.
Obviously, you won’t always have a direct personal connection with someone you’d like to meet, but that’s not the only way forward. Next up, check to see if you’re part of any of the same LinkedIn groups as the person in question. Perhaps you’re members of a professional association, or maybe you both graduated from the same university.
Finding common ground can quickly evolve a cold contact into a warm one. In fact, if you and the person are both members of a group, you can send them a message directly through LinkedIn without having to connect first. Think of it as cutting out the social media middle man.
Charm cold contacts with a personalized connection request. LinkedIn limits you to 300 characters here, but that’s still plenty of space to impress.
2. PERSONALIZE YOUR CONNECTION REQUEST
If you aren’t able to turn the cold contact into a warm one through a virtual introduction, your next step is to send a personalized connection request.
LinkedIn allows you to send a connection request when you’d like to add someone new to your network. These potential connections will then receive a notification asking them to accept or decline your invitation. Because the process counts on their approval, without any type of background or explanation, many people are likely to decline an invitation from a stranger.
For this reason, under no accounts send the default “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message. Trust us on this.
Instead, charm them with a personalized one. LinkedIn limits you to 300 characters here, but that’s still plenty of space to impress them with a short and sweet intro.
The Classic Approach
Came across your profile and work at XYZ Company. I’m a fellow aspiring marketing professional and would love to connect.
The Admirer Approach
If you’ve seen the person’s work elsewhere (i.e. a publication, conference, networking event, or even through social media), mention it. People love when someone appreciates their hard work. Try something like this:
Saw your recent presentation at XYZ conference. I got a lot out of it and would love to chat with you to discuss some questions I had about your work.
Once you’ve successfully connected to someone, you can now send the person a direct message—and you should take advantage of this opportunity every time.
3. SEND A FOLLOW-UP LINKEDIN MESSAGE OR EMAIL
Once you’ve successfully connected to someone, don’t call it a day. You can now send the person a direct message, and you should take advantage of this opportunity every time. Let her know you admire her work or would like to learn more about her career path.
Ask for either an in-person or phone meeting where you can gain more information. Here are some approaches:
The Classic Reach-Out
Thank you for connecting with me on LinkedIn. I see that you’ve had a lot of work experience in corporate marketing, a field that I’m hoping to break into. I’ve done a couple of internships in the field and would love your advice on this topic. Would you be willing to speak with me over the phone for 20-30 minutes in the next few weeks? Thanks for your consideration.
The Hybrid Reach-Out
In the case where you’re able to send a message directly without connecting first (i.e., you both share a group), your initial message will look a bit different. Think of it as a combination of Steps 2 and 3. Here’s a good example:
I’m a fellow Rice University alumnus who recently graduated with a degree in Marketing. I came across your LinkedIn profile through our alumni group and was intrigued by your work experience in marketing. I’d love to learn more about your career path and get your perspective on how to best break into the field as a new grad. Would you be willing to speak with me over the phone for 20-30 minutes in the next few weeks? Thanks for your consideration.
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In no context should your end goal of adding cold contacts be asking for a job.
You read that right. That part comes later, long after a cold contact warms up. Treat this as your opportunity to ask instead for information and learn more about the person. Informational interviews are great relationship builders, which both expand your network and provide you with tons of helpful career advice and insight from others.
Adding cold contacts on LinkedIn takes more time and effort than simply hitting the “connect” button over and over, but you reap what you sow. Put the time into turning a cold contact into a strong connection that you can keep in touch with over time.
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