Whether in person or through social media, a first impression is made within a matter of seconds, and the opportunities to change this impression are few and far between. So whether connecting with a friend, colleague, or boss, it’s extremely important to make your first attempt so good that they can’t ignore you.
Today I’d like to focus on LinkedIn. I’m a true believer in the value of LinkedIn as a job search tool, especially for research, and naturally I have a lot of connections. I’m happy to connect with people I know but lately I’ve been receiving invitations from folks I have no way of having met, from all over the world. I guess I could be flattered, but I wish they would provide some information as to how they know me and why they’d like to connect with me. Since I’m known as the career expert who is committed to integrating old-fashioned interpersonal relationship building skills (i.e., social etiquette) with the latest technological tools, this has prompted me to lay out my three cardinal rules for LinkedIn requests:
- Never ask a stranger to connect! If you want to introduce yourself, do it in an email or by phone. Build the connection first before you try to link. If you’ve just met someone at a party or networking event and you’ve exchanged contact info, then that counts.
- Never use the “Friend” category unless that person would consider you their friend. If you have attended the same school, then you may use “Classmate” even if you weren’t there at the same time. The same goes for “Colleague” if you have worked at the same company. Otherwise, use “Other” and type in the person’s email address in the box provided. If you’ve followed rule #1, you will have this information.
- Never use the generic introduction message that Linkedin provides! Take 20 seconds or so to personalize the request. Remember it took days, weeks, months, and maybe even years to build this connection.