The Fine Art of Linking In

The Fine Art of Linking In

Let me just come out and say it: Linked In is possibly my favorite social network.

Sure, you think, I’m only saying that because I’m writing a post about the experience of job seeking, but it’s one of the most versatile tools – it allows me to see who I know, serving as an online contact manager. I can research companies, fields, and get information…and I can add professional contacts. However, there’s been one really great tip, one piece of information that has allowed me to best use the service….and which I’m going to share with you.

Don’t use Linked In’s boilerplate message when connecting.

You know the one – I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. It’s casual, to the point, and reads….like a professional copywriter wrote it.

But what it doesn’t do is provide context….in my career, I’ve worked with and for some larger organizations, including the Salvation Army, the United Way, and the American Red Cross. These aren’t small mom-and-pop operations, but are large, national organizations, and often, I’ll get the odd note asking to conenct from someone I don’t know. And when I look them up, all I see is that we have that agency in common.

When I follow up and ask for a rationale, I get….nothing. Yes, many a social media guru/expert/ninja/secret agent/superhero/insert-title here encourages people to build their followings….but in networking, it’s about providing value and commonality. It’s about finding that rationale to connect, to head to radio station WII – FM, or What’s In It For Me?

You may be wondering if I’ve gone rogue, and decided to be selfish…not at all. I have no problem if someone starting out wants to connect, or if someone is building their contact base – I’ve done that in the past. But to not provide a context or rationale seems counterproductive, and sending me a boilerplate seems to lack an effort.

(Plus, that’s why I tend to end every invitation to connect via Linked In with  “let me know you’re connecting via Job Stalker” – it’s not just a good way for me to be of help to other job seekers, it’s also reassuring to know that I’m not just blogging for my own entertainment)

When I connect with others, I try (at least, when Linked In allows me) to change the boilerplate, providing some basis to explain. (Sadly, Linked In does not provide a lot of room to do this, making it a challenge). Even if it’s as simple as “Glad to have met you at (event) – please let me know how I can help”, that speaks volumes….not just that I’m looking for work, but that I’m willing to be a resource, that I can help connect, and hopefully, that I’m willing to take that extra step to provide value to someone.

Because if I don’t do that when I’m looking to connect, then I’m pretty much saying to an employer, “Expect me to be in at 9:00, out at 5:00, with nothing much in between”.

Also, a second tip – please don’t spam Linked In Groups. Some of us are actually there to share resources, and I ended up removing a member of  a group I moderate because of excessive posting. Remember – networking only works if you’re willing to provide as much value as you wish to receive.

Well, that ends my mini-rant for today – please feel free to leave any comments or concerns in the space below, and please feel free to check out my other online writings and professional portfolio at

(Also, don’t forget Chicago Counts this Saturday and Learnapalooza next Saturday. I’ll be presenting this Saturday at the former, and in July for the latter).

As always, thanks for reading!


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  • Gordon ...
    As an additional tip ... following every event I go to, I try to make LinkedIn connections with everybody I collected cards from (within the first 24 hours afterwards). This gives a perfect context for moving past the boilerplate: "Hey, great to talk with you at EVENT ..." and it hopefully solidifies that connection.
    - B.T.

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    Also: Don't use the "friend" option when choosing a relationship with the potential connection to get around the system. That's the surest way for me to ignore a request (behind the use of the generic message as you well covered, Gordon).

    And BrendanTripp - Good tip.

  • Brendan & PJ - Both great tips!

    One thing I tend to do when I get a new connection (if it's not someone who I recognise immediately) is to check their profile and see who they're connected with. I've had many requests where the person seeking to connect with me is connected to a large number of my friends. (This is useful for people connecting with me via Salvation Army, United Way, etc - that way, I can see who we may have in common).

    The other tool that I use is Amazon's Reading List app, but that's mostly for me to learn about great business (and other) literature to check out.

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