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Advice / Job Search / Networking

6 Super Common LinkedIn Mistakes That You Can Easily Avoid

You finally got around to building that All-Star LinkedIn profile. You’ve updated your past jobs, triple-checked for typos, and uploaded a photo that’s a far better choice than the awkward selfie you used to have in its place.

With your profile in good shape, it’s time to start building and strengthening your network with intention. But before you get too excited and start connecting with everyone, make sure you know how to reach out the right way— that means not making these six insanely common mistakes.

1. Not Personalizing the Invite Message

When you click “connect” on someone’s profile, the default message will likely say: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” That may be fine if you’re inviting a good friend, but sending that standard line should not be your go-to approach for connecting with a person you don’t already have a history with.

Sending a personalized, polite message that briefly explains your reasons for connecting is a must. Muse columnist Sara McCord suggests you answer three questions: “Who are you? How did you find me? Why do you want to connect?” She also provides a specific template for reaching out to an alum—and staying within the character limit:

Hi Sara,

I see we both went to F&M (Go Dips!). I am a graduating senior interested in editorial and would love to connect with you because you write for some of my favorite websites.

Thanks so much,

Jill Brown

If the other person accepts the invite but doesn’t respond (which is common), you can then follow up with a direct message. Just note that if the majority of your connection requests get rejected, LinkedIn may limit the number of invitations you can send, so make sure you’re targeting people correctly.

2. Inviting People to Connect on Your Phone

The mobile app’s default invitation doesn’t present you with a customized option before sending; fortunately, there’s a simple solution.

In the top right corner of the member’s profile, select the menu icon that has three small squares. Then tap “Personalize Invite,” enter your message, and hit “Send Invitation.”

And while we’re on the topic of connection requests, it’s worth pointing out that invites sent from the “People You May Know” feature in the app can’t be personalized, so if you care about reaching out to those people with a non-generic invite, wait until you’re at your computer.

3. Asking for Too Much From a Stranger

There’s nothing worse than accepting an invite and getting hit with a huge request. So, when someone connects with you, don’t be that person who quickly asks for a job or launches into a sales pitch.

If you’re looking for career advice, request an informational interview. I’ve found that if you reach out to people in a polite, kind, and respectful way, you’ll probably hear back. No one owes you a response, so make sure you don’t come across as entitled.

Try not to think only of what connecting can do for you but also how you can add value to the other person. Regardless of where you’re at in your career, you can find ways to help others.

4. Not Customizing Your Headline

Your headline is one of the first things people see when they receive a request. A good one briefly explains what you currently do and what you want to be doing (if those aren’t the same).

So, instead of defaulting to a job title such as marketing manager, add a bit more, like this:

  • Social Media Expert Seeking Nonprofit Opportunities
  • Experienced Writer Creating Content for Fortune 500 Companies
  • Econ Major and Aspiring Financial Analyst

Use keywords that make it easy for others to find you. You can identify the best options by reviewing job descriptions in your industry.

5. Failing to Follow Up

You know how they say that Rome wasn’t built in a day? Well, the same goes with relationships. Don’t forget to follow up! If someone helped you get an interview or made an introduction, circle back with an update. People love to hear how they’ve been helpful.

The goal when connecting is not to collect as many contacts as possible. Simply sending an update takes little time and thought, but it’s worth the investment. Quality is more important than quantity.

6. Not Using the Alumni Tool

I believe the Alumni tool is the most underutilized feature. You can access it by clicking on the LinkedIn homepage, hovering over “My Network,” then selecting “Find Alumni.”

From there, you can perform a search for individuals who attended your school. You can filter by location, company, job function, major, skills, graduation date, and more.

Once you’ve selected the appropriate filters, you can view profiles and send a message to someone you could imagine having a conversation with. You could ask to set up an informational interview, or even just to connect online, and maybe send some questions over email.

Whether you’re looking for a new job or trying to get better at your current one, syncing up with the right people can help you accomplish your goals. By avoiding these six mistakes, and learning how to effectively reach out, you’ll be well on your way to building meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships that’ll transform your career.

Photo of woman looking at phone courtesy of Carlina Teteris/Getty Images.