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How To Make LinkedIn Connections Work For You

Here is a great blog by J.T. O Donnell - CEO of CareerRealism.com on how to make correctly make LinkedIn connections

Recently, a job seeker I know got her LinkedIn account “restricted.” Meaning, she couldn’t request to connect with anyone unless she had their direct email address. She was able to contact Customer Service and have it lifted, but not until she confirmed she read some educational information regarding the guidelines. Turns out, when you are trying to expand your network by connecting with people outside your friends and co-workers, you need to be very careful because:

A) You don’t want the person declining your invite with the “I don’t know” button.

B) You definitely don’t want them flagging the request to connect as SPAM via the "Ignore" button either.

Why? Those two options, just four little words, when done too many times to your invites will land you in LinkedIn jail – a.k.a. having restricted access.

What’s a Job Seeker to Do?

Now, if you are an active job seeker, you know your ability to find a new job is directly connected to expanding your network. As they say, “It’s not who you know, but who knows YOU." Thus, you need to reach out to people you don’t know at companies on your bucket list as a way to increase your connections and (hopefully) establish new relationships that could lead to referrals to jobs. LinkedIn can be a super way to do this. Let’s face it: in-person networking events and face-to-face opportunities are much harder to come by these days, so a social media option like LinkedIn is ideal for this activity. However, you need to do everything in your power make sure the strangers you reach out to don’t respond to your request with “I don’t know” or “spam” to avoid getting restricted. I spoke to an employee at LinkedIn who shared the following guidelines:

  • Invite only people that you personally know.
  • Invite only those you'd recommend to others.
  • Personalize your invitation message. Explain how you know them or why you want to connect. (Here's an article on why many invites get ignored.)
  • Add a current head-shot photo to your profile so people recognize you.
  • Use an InMail or Introduction if you don't know someone's email address.

My Additional Tips for Success

As a career coach who encourages her clients to reach out to strangers on LinkedIn, let me offer a few additional techniques.

1) When you personalize the request, be honest in the fact that you don’t know them...yet. Something like:

We’ve never met, but I admire your work at XYZ Corp and share your interest in _____(insert something specific you learned from their profile). Can we connect? I’d love to learn more about this area of expertise.

2) Go outside of LinkedIn and complete an Internet search on the person. Often, we can find an organization or other website where this person is listed. It may even have their contact information so you can use their email address to contact them directly with your invite, which is LinkedIn’s preferred method for you to ask to connect. Then, follow the tip above to personalize the request.

3) As your network for help with connections at specific companies. If you have a bucket list of employers you’d like to work for (and you should!), then you can list these companies to friends and colleagues to see if they know someone there. Taking the time to ask for an introduction is worth it. Be sure to share what you admire about what the company does as a way to validate your desire to meet someone who works there. The specifics you can give, the more likely a person is to go the extra mile to introduce you.

4) Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and up-to-date in the best format possible. Those you request to connect with are going to review your profile. If it isn’t optimized and professional, it will increase your chances of getting rejected. (You can sign-up to get free access to a tutorial I did recently on what recruiters look for on a LinkedIn profile here.)

Be Cautious, But Don’t Stop Connecting

Getting restricted isn’t good, but grinding to a halt in your efforts to meet new people via LinkedIn is not the answer. Pay heed to the advice above and be selective in who you request to connect with.