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LinkedIn Masterclass: A series on making the most out of the career social network

This month: How to approach someone you don’t know on LinkedIn

LinkedIn allows professionals to interact on a global scale, offering the opportunity to communicate with people you may not know in a personal capacity.

There are boundless benefits to expanding your professional network with new contacts, such as:

  • It opens the doors to more professional opportunities
  • Having lots of connections makes you look more influential
  • The more connections you have, the easier it is for others to find you via search results, including recruiters
  • You will have a wider audience for your opinions on matters which are important to you and your industry, thereby increasing your influence in a real way
  • If you own your own company or are a freelancer, it’s a great way to find new business

However, online networking should be treated the same as real world networking. You should observe the social etiquette involved before you start sending out connection requests left, right and centre.

Here’s how.

Treat each new connection as an individual

If you want to make a positive, mutually beneficial connection with a person, be respectful and approach them with thought. Think about why you want to connect with them. Did you particularly resonate with one of their recent posts? Do you admire their career and want some advice? Are you approaching them in the hopes of getting a job offer?

Do your research and demonstrate a genuine interest. Find out everything you can about them and come prepared with something intelligent and unique to say.

Introduce yourself as you would in a normal social situation

When requesting to connect with a fellow professional, ensure you send a short, polite message introducing yourself and explaining why you would like to connect.

Tech journalist, Andrea Smith, stresses the importance of being upfront about intentions, explaining that if these are clear the person can then decide how best to respond. They will also appreciate your openness a deal more than any lazy, indiscriminate requests they would normally receive. Showing awareness of business etiquette from the get-go displays your professionalism, and helps to differentiate you from the pack if you’re aiming to set up a meeting with them in the future.

Try starting a discussion to pique their interest. Ask for their opinion on something specific, or offer a new point of view on a topic you know they are interested in.

Be wary of your own reputation

There are certain complexities that are important to consider when connecting with strangers on LinkedIn. For instance, some people view your connections on LinkedIn as a reflection on you. If some of your unknown connections have a bad reputation, this could have a direct effect on your own reputation in your network. Similarly, you risk having your new connection sending unwanted requests to your truly valued connections, putting your hard-earned network at risk.

Building a network of meaningful connections will not happen overnight, it is a process and a journey requiring much patience and care. If you are serious about your goals, and willing to put work into your professional network, you will be able to embrace the opportunities that exist within this wide online network.

Discover online networking opportunities with your college’s Alumni LinkedIn group

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