Networking is the most effective way to find a new position, and LinkedIn has now made networking even easier.
Nonetheless, with people being bombarded by digital messages, consider how to get your message noticed and answered.
People usually respond much better when you ask for advice rather than asking for a job.
And advice can be very useful.
Carefully choose who you approach. Focus on someone who works for one of your target employers, hopefully in the location or section of the employer’s organization where you would like to work. Or, someone who works for a target employer whom you already know or who you have a connection to.
Prepare for a Response
Before you contact someone, make sure you know what you are going to say when they respond to you.
Hone your elevator pitch, the 2-3 sentences you use to tell people your value proposition.
To help ensure that you receive a response, be sure that your LinkedIn Profile shows who you are and what you do (with a picture of you).
You also need to be prepared to send them a fully-developed and well-crafted resume, appropriate for the employer and the opportunity you want there.
But, do not send the resume unless/until it is requested.
The 4 LinkedIn “Ice Breakers”
Start with the request for advice to build the relationship and gather information about this potential employer and the contact, too.
1. You do not know the person at all, and you have no relationship whatsoever. This is the classic “cold contact.”
I noticed that you are a fellow alumnus of [insert the school name], and I wonder if you could give me some quick advice as a random act of kindness.
I am a (insert your 1-2 sentence elevator pitch): Software Engineer with over 15 years of experience at such firms as American Express and Bank of America. I have led the full project life cycle for dozens of high-end initiatives mostly to support online customer-facing initiatives. I have also delivered multiple mobile applications on iOS and Android platforms, but the emphasis here in this area is not as great as I had hoped.
My friends and colleagues have mentioned that your organization is pushing hard on the mobile platform application-development front, and I was wondering if you think I might be a good fit in your company?
Please check my LinkedIn Profile [insert the link], or call me at [insert your phone number]. I can make myself available at your convenience and would really appreciate your thoughts.
I promise not to take up much of your time.
Thanks in advance.
Note: I have found that the phrase “random act of kindness” does wonders in getting people to respond.
2. You do not know anyone at the company, but one of your contacts does.
This is the most common situation, and the first thing you need to gauge is the strength of your relationship with your contact.
If he/she really knows and likes you, then getting a referral is pretty straightforward.
If you have a casual knowledge of each other, it is more difficult. Here’s a message for this situation:
I wonder if you could give me some quick advice.
I have been told that [the employer] is a great place to work, and I noticed that you know some people there. I value your opinion and was wondering if you can tell me anything about the company. What it is like to work there?
Alternatively, may I mention your name in reaching out to your contact, [insert contact name], for more information?
I can make myself available at your convenience, and would really appreciate your thoughts.
3. You do not know the person, and they formerly worked at the company you are targeting.
It’s best to start with someone who doesn’t work at the company so you can build confidence.
A good opener might be:
I noticed that you are a fellow alumnus of [insert the school name]. I wonder if you could give me some quick advice as a random act of kindness.
I am targeting positions at [the employer] and, as I see that you used to work there, I was hoping you could tell me a bit about the corporate culture and what your experience was like.
I only need a few minutes and can make myself available at your convenience, as I would really appreciate your insights.
Thanks in advance.
4. You do not know the person, but you have established a bit of a relationship on LinkedIn. This is a “warmer contact.”
In this scenario, you not only have identified the person you wish to connect to, but you have joined his or her LinkedIn Groups and responded to his or her comments and postings. This, then, is a bit stronger as you are creating a relationship.
You are not a total stranger to this person.
I noticed that you are a fellow alumnus of [insert the school name], and I have been reading and commenting on your updates regarding mobile application development. As you described, I too recognize the challenge of supporting multiple changing platforms.
I am a [insert your 1-2 sentence elevator pitch] Software Engineer with over 15 years of experience at such firms as American Express and Bank of America. I have led the full project life cycle for dozens of high-end initiatives mostly to support online customer-facing initiatives. I have also delivered multiple mobile applications on iOS and Android platforms, but the emphasis here in this area is not as great as I had hoped.
It would seem that your organization is pushing hard on the mobile platform application-development front, and I was wondering if you think I should target openings at your firm.
Please check my LinkedIn Profile [insert the link], or call me at [insert your phone number]. I can make myself available at your convenience and would really appreciate your thoughts. I promise not to take up much of your time.
Thanks in advance.
Clearly 4 is stronger than 3, so identify your targets, and join in their discussions on LinkedIn and Twitter so you can build some credibility before contacting them.
Research Your Target
Know something about who you are communicating with. Check out their backgrounds to see if you know anyone in common or have similar skills and experiences.
Leverage the LinkedIn Education section to find alumni of one of your schools working for your target employer. Note their locations, their jobs, and their job titles.
Make sure you follow the employer on LinkedIn. Many companies have Profiles on LinkedIn, connecting to their news, job postings, and other useful information gleaned from LinkedIn members who currently work for the employer as well as those who worked there in the past.
If you are not connected to the person on LinkedIn, you will need to send them an email outside of LinkedIn unless you have a Premium account. Hopefully, they have included their email address in the contact information section of their Profiles. If they haven’t, try a Google search on their name (and employer, if employed).
The Bottom Line
Everyone talks about using LinkedIn to network into an employer’s organization, but doing it gracefully is not as easy as it sounds. Try these 4 approaches in the right situations, and you will accelerate the results from your LinkedIn networking.
More About LinkedIn Success:
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About the author…
Don Goodman is a triple-certified nationally recognized career professional (Expert Resume Writer, Certified Career Coach, and Job Search Strategist) with over 20 years of experience helping thousands of people quickly land their next job. Don graduated from the Wharton School of Business and Stanford University’s Executive Program.
More about this author…