Over the past year, I have tried to get a job in one industry, switched industries, and gotten a job in this new industry. Since landing this new job I have had a few people reach out to me with the hopes that I could help them land a job in my industry. These are some of the things I have learned from being on both sides of this conversation.
Don’t simply add someone on LinkedIn without sending a message
I’m sure you have found a ton of people on LinkedIn who are working in jobs you want and who could potentially help you get a job like theirs. What now? Do not simply send them a generic LinkedIn request. This tells them nothing about who you are and why you are reaching out to them. By doing this, you are depriving yourself of opportunities to grab someone’s attention and make a connection with them.
Every week I get multiple generic LinkedIn requests. I ignore them all. Usually I find out about these requests by getting a generic email that looks exactly like all of the other ones I have received this week and last week and the week before. To the people sending these requests, it may feel like trying to forge a new connection. To me, it is spam. Spam is not something I engage with; it is something I ignore until I delete.
Do personalize the messages you send
No matter where you are in the process of a job search, it is important to personalize every message you send. Personalizing messages can be a great way to avoid the spam feeling mentioned in the previous section. One reason for this is that LinkedIn treats generic and personalized messages differently. A request to connect sent with a personalized message displays differently than invitations without personalized messages. This makes these requests stand out visually from the others.
The email about this request also is different. It appears as though someone messaged me, rather than appearing as yet another generic notification that someone wants to connect with me. This makes it feel less like yet another spammy connection request and more like there’s a person who wants to talk to me. It makes me curious to see what this person has to say.
The way that LinkedIn treats these two different types of requests helps people who write personalized messages to stand out, thereby giving them an advantage. It also makes for a more personal feel, no matter what the message says.
Don’t make someone guess why you are reaching out to them
An effective networking message does not have to be long or complicated. It can be as simple as a couple sentences explaining who you are and what you want. Communicating why you are reaching out to a person is important. It helps to set the tone for the relationship you are trying to forge and can help the other person to figure out how they should proceed with you. Maybe you want someone’s advice or you have questions you would like someone to answer or you would like to learn more about a person’s company or industry. Whatever your goal is in reaching out to a person, express it.
That being said, there is one major exception to this. Never directly ask someone for a job, especially someone you do not know. It is off putting and likely to get you nowhere.
Do be clear with what you want
When you express why you are reaching out to someone and what you hope to achieve, it is important to be clear and specific. I have had a few people reach out to me saying they would like me to answer some questions they had. When I told them I would be happy to answer these questions, they responded by asking about when to call. This was a miscommunication. When I got the message that they wanted to ask me some questions, I expected them to send me questions. I didn’t expect anything about a phone call because we never talked about having a phone call.
The more clear and specific you are in communicating with someone, the more professional you seem, the less likely you are to run into miscommunications, and the easier you make it for someone to help you. This miscommunication about a phone call versus written communication leads into the next point in this article.
Do be respectful of when and how someone wants to contact you
When I was looking for a job, I never told anyone when or how we would contact each other. The way I looked at the situation, they were helping me out and doing me a favor by giving me advice or answering my questions so I wanted to be as accommodating as possible to their schedules and preferences. Now that I am on the other side of that conversation, I appreciate when people show the same consideration to me.
I had someone reach out to me asking If they could get my insight over a Zoom call. I do not have Zoom on my computer and I do not remember the credentials I used to make a Zoom account months and months ago. I don’t want to hop on a Zoom call with anyone for any reason if I can help it.
There are many reasons why someone might prefer one method of contacting you over another. Maybe someone likes the directness of a phone call or the personal feeling of a video call. Maybe someone’s work schedule is unpredictable or they want to take time to digest and thoroughly answer your questions so they prefer to email with you or message with you over LinkedIn. No matter how a person prefers to contact you as they help you, it is polite to be accommodating to their needs and preferences. Showing a person this consideration can make it easier for them to help you and can make you more likely to successfully forge a connection with them.
Do make a personal connection with someone and leverage anything you have in common to do so
When I was looking for a job I made my strongest connections when I focused not just on establishing new connections but on building relationships with other people. The more my new connections and I got to know each other as people the better, deeper, and more frequent our conversations became. The more someone knows and likes you, the more likely they are to want to help you.
An easy and effective way to start building a personal connection with someone is to find something that the two of you have in common. This can be as simple as having gone to the same school, knowing the same person, or having a shared interest.
Leveraging something you have in common can be a great way to grab someone’s attention initially. I am much more likely to read an email from someone looking to connect if they mention my alma mater in the subject line. Seeing something familiar grabs my attention and makes me curious to see what else a person has to say. Leveraging something you have in common with someone is also a great way to start a conversation.
All of these tips can be summarized with two points: stand out and make it easy for people to help you. The key to standing out is personalization and an effective way to start forming a personal connection with someone is leveraging things the two of you have in common. Once you grab someone’s attention and start forming a connection with them, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to make it easy for them to help you. The more accommodating you are, the easier you are to work with. The more ambiguous you are in expressing what you want from someone, the more work it takes from them to figure out how to help you. Ultimately, the easier you make it for someone to help you, the more likely it is that someone will want to help you and the better help you are likely to get.