An friend of mine emailed me the other day, irritated by a message she’d just received in her LinkedIn inbox. Sent by a recent college grad she had briefly met at a networking event a few weeks prior, the message read:
I was wondering if you could introduce me to [name of very high-level contact]. I have just applied to a position at [company] and I see that she is the VP there. If you could introduce me to her ASAP that would be great.
I could see why my friend was irked. While the sender’s intentions may have been on the right track (“Ooh! I see that someone in my network knows the hiring manager at my dream job!”), she had broken one of the cardinal rules of LinkedIn: Being connected to someone on LinkedIn does not mean that you have a relationship with that person—or that the person would be willing to vouch for you, introduce you to his or her contacts, or otherwise help you unless there’s a pretty good reason.
In other words, there was no way that my friend—who had a closer relationship with her last checker at Trader Joe’s than she did with this woman—was going to go out on a limb to introduce her to one of her most important contacts just because they were connected on LinkedIn. She deleted the message without responding.
This story reminded me that this seemingly simple advice bears repeating: Before you ask for anything from someone in your network, you absolutely must build a relationship.
But what exactly does building a relationship look like, especially when you really need help, um, now? Here’s a LinkedIn message script you can use in similar situations for any of your not-so-close connections. While I can’t promise you’ll get a response, I guarantee your chances will be a whole lot better.
Hi [contact’s name],
I hope all is well. I really enjoyed chatting with you at last week’s networking event and hope to see you again at one of these things—what a great group of people.
As I mentioned to you that night, I recently graduated and am on the hunt for a full-time position. I recently stumbled across an opening at [company], which sounds like it would be perfect for me. [Insert a list of reasons said job is perfect, based on your specific interests and qualifications.]
I see that you're connected to the VP, [name], and was wondering if I could pick your brain on what she might be looking for in this position or any tips you might have about boosting my application. Would you be available for a 15-minute phone call sometime this week?
I appreciate your help in advance!
In other words, instead of assuming that your contact will be willing to help you out, give a few reasons why he or she should vouch for you.
Instead of asking for a one-time introduction, ask for advice, which will help you build a relationship.
And instead of seeing your LinkedIn connections solely as a link between you and your dream company, treat them like real people, who are worthy of building real relationships with and who have real advice that can help you succeed.
Even if you you don’t get help with that particular contact, I promise—building a relationship like this will pay off down the road.