Note: If you’re new to this STEM job search series, I suggest starting with part 1, which covers the first step of an organized job search—creating a list of target companies. This list is the foundation for the subsequent posts in the series.
“The easiest thing is to react. The second easiest thing is to respond. But the hardest thing is to initiate.” ~ Seth Godin ~
Most people know they should be networking because it’s good for their career but many people are uncomfortable approaching people they don’t know, and fear the vulnerable position they put themselves in when asking for help.
Quick Story Time
One of the most important lessons I’ve ever had on fear occurred in my first year working in R&D for the specialty chemicals industry while meeting with a colleague. I was fascinated by her chemical engineering background and wanted to learn more about her experience in various technical services, product management, and consulting roles involving polymer-based materials.
During our conversation, she shared one of the most valuable things she’s learned is the importance of talking to people. Being a shy, introverted person, who was still adjusting to my first job, this advice made me anxious. She picked up on my hesitance, upon which I shared my misgivings about approaching people I don’t know, such as not wanting to bother the person, accidentally sending the wrong signals, and wrestling with my lifelong apprehension toward asking for help.
Her response? “Kate, just remember, they can’t take away your birthday.”
At first, I was a bit confused by her advice, but as she continued talking, I realized that she was assuring me that my fears were natural. Even if I messed up my approach, I could remember these words, refocus, and calm down.
The worst-case scenario rarely occurs. In a networking situation, the worst that can happen is the person you approach ignores you or tells you they don’t have the time to help you. When you begin a job search, you will likely run into this situation at least once, perhaps multiple times. If so, thank the person for their time and move on with your goals.
Why use LinkedIn for networking?
In a previous post, I mentioned that research has estimated that up to 70% of jobs are not published, and 80% of jobs are filled through professional networking referrals.
My networking practices emphasize LinkedIn because it’s used by over 90% of recruiters and hiring managers to source possible candidates, especially when filling hard-to-fill science, engineering, and technology-focused roles. With more than 600 million professional profiles, you have nearly an unlimited supply of network connections and job opportunities.
How do you connect with someone?
When you’re on someone’s profile, look for the blue Connect button underneath the person’s name, headline, and the location at the top of their profile page.
If the person is a 3rd-degree connection or someone who is connected to your 2nd-degree connections, you may have to click the white More button at the top of their profile page and select the Connect option in the drop-down menu.
Clicking Connect brings up a prompt to customize this invitation. There, you will have 2 options:
Don’t end up in LinkedIn jail. Yes, that is a real place.
When you send too many generic requests to people, who indicate they don’t know you, LinkedIn can restrict your account, which greatly reduces your ability to connect with people and expand your network.
This possibility underscores the importance of customizing your LinkedIn invite, and if you take away one thing from this post, let it be this:
Always personalize your LinkedIn invite.
I receive random LinkedIn invitations all the time. I’ll accept some, based on my own selection criteria, but I’ll ignore most.
Can you guess which ones I’ll accept?
The people who take the time to write a short, personal note about why they want to connect with me will grab my attention over those who send the default message or try to approach me with a sales pitch (Don’t even get me started).
People respond well to those who are genuine in their approach. Building genuine relationships involves paying attention to the people you want to connect with, such as the content they are sharing, creating, liking, commenting on, etc.
Your network is only as strong as the people in it. By identifying opportunities to intentionally connect with people that make sense for you, your career path, and your goals, you will notice a significant difference in the quality of connections you create versus connecting with people to reach that 500+ connections mark.
Key Components of a Strong LinkedIn Invite
LinkedIn notes added to invites have a 300-character limit. Therefore, you need to be direct and concise. Effective connection requests include the following details:
*This last part is especially important because the most effective invites come from a genuine place of learning, such as seeking advice about a particular job, career field, or company of interest.
Following this framework will add authenticity to your messages while helping you initiate meaningful conversations.
Sample LinkedIn Connection Request Messaging Scripts
These scripts are purposely written to be modified and adapted across different LinkedIn network-building scenarios while staying within the 300-character limit.
Hi [First Name], It was great to meet you at [Event] last week. Your role at [Company] sounds very interesting and is one of the companies I'm currently exploring opportunities with. Do you mind if we connect? [Your First Name]
Hi [First Name], It was terrific meeting and speaking with you at the [Event] in [City] last week. I enjoyed our conversation and hearing your perspective on [Topic(s)] and how you got into [Role]. May we connect? [Your First Name]
Hi [First Name], I've been following your career path and LinkedIn activity in [Industry] and am fascinated by your insights on [Topic(s)]. I am exploring opportunities in [Field] and would love to chat with you to learn more about your experience. [Your First Name]
Hi [First Name], I found your profile through [Group] on LinkedIn, of which I am also a member. I thought your post on [Topic] was interesting. May we connect? [Your First Name]
Hi [First Name], As a fellow member of [Group], I'm seeking [Position] roles in [Industry] and would like to speak with you about whether I'd be a fit for a current or future client of yours. May we connect? [Your First Name]
Hi [First Name], I noticed you recently viewed my profile and was wondering if you had any questions about my experience. I see you recruit for companies that may need someone with my background and skillset. May we connect? [Your First Name]
Hi [First Name], After viewing your profile and seeing you work with candidates with a similar background, I thought we'd benefit from being connected. I'm currently an [Position] at [Company], and I am interested in exploring potential opportunities in [Industry]. [Your First Name]
Hi [First Name], One of our mutual connections, [Name of Shared Connection], shared an article you wrote on [Topic]. I found your perspective interesting and wanted to connect with you. [Your First Name]
Hi [First Name], I'm really glad that [Mutual Connection] introduced us. If it's alright with you, I'd love to chat for 10-15 minutes about your experience as a [Position] role at [Company]. [Your First Name]
LinkedIn Connection Requests Etiquette
To bring it all together, I’ll leave you with this brief list of do’s and don’ts to refer to when writing your LinkedIn connection requests.
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