There’s been some debate over how to use LinkedIn. Some suggest connecting with only people you know and work with, while others encourage inviting people to your network the same way you would with Twitter—in other words, adding anyone and everyone. No matter which philosophy you follow, there’s one hurdle you’ll always have to overcome: getting people to accept.
Obviously, we all know to scrap the generic “I’d like to connect with you” message and send a personalized invite. (Right?) But even that doesn’t guarantee that a LinkedIn invite will be accepted.
Here are a few more reasons you might not be getting the connections you want—and what to do instead.
1. Your Message Lacks Meaningful Intention
What is the difference between these two LinkedIn invites?
“I attended your workshop on entrepreneurship last week and would like to connect with you on LinkedIn.”
“It was a pleasure chatting with you about entrepreneurship after your workshop last week, and I’d love to keep in touch.”
It’s a really minor difference, but the second one feels easier to accept because it’s clear what the person extending the invitation wants. The first invitation is just a little too open-ended. It’s not clear why the person wants to connect, and that makes it harder for someone to accept this invite. Make sure your invite has a straightforward and, ideally, mutually beneficial reason for connecting.
2. You’re Selling Something
There is one caveat to the previous rule of thumb for LinkedIn invites. While you do want to include why you are interested in connecting, you definitely don’t want to include in your LinkedIn invite whatever it is that you’re selling or pitching. There’s just something off-putting about being sold to during one of the very first interactions you have with someone. So, don’t do it. The LinkedIn invite is just not the place.
3. Your LinkedIn Profile Is Incomplete
So, now that your LinkedIn invite is all faux pas free, it’s time to have a look at your profile. It looks almost suspicious if you’re actively adding contacts on LinkedIn but haven’t made the effort to show who you are on your actual LinkedIn profile. If you have no photo, sparse experience, only a few connections, and no signs of interaction from others (like recommendations or endorsements), it’s definitely less likely that people will accept your invitation to connect. They simply won’t know who you are.
To be safe, put in the effort and build up your profile. Here are some tips on how.
4. They Never Check LinkedIn
Of course, there are a couple reasons that you might not get connected with someone that have nothing to do with you or the invitation you write, and they’re definitely worth noting. LinkedIn keeps growing, and even though many people have a LinkedIn profile, not everyone checks it as frequently as they probably should. The person you’re trying to connect with might very well be open to connecting but just doesn’t use LinkedIn as often as you do. Don’t take it personally.
Going back full circle, you could also just have a different philosophy on how to use LinkedIn from the person you hope to connect with. Some people only use LinkedIn to connect with people they’ve had experience working with professionally and will reject invites from anyone else. This is one of those things you can’t do anything about. Do what you can and make sure your LinkedIn invite doesn’t feel sales-y while still explaining what you’re looking for.
I know it sounds more effortful than it needs to be, but it’s worth it. After all, when it comes to your career, there’s nothing more valuable than your network.
Photo of envelope courtesy of Shutterstock.
Lily Zhang serves as a Manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab where she works with a range of students from AI experts to interaction designers. When she’s not indulging in a new book or video game, she’s thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author