You’re on LinkedIn to network, and in some ways, it’s never been easier. The platform updates you when someone lands a new job, is mentioned in the news, or is celebrating a work anniversary. And taking it one step further, it’ll even create an automated message for you so you don’t have to spend too long thinking up what to say.
While that sounds like a great idea—because you can connect with less time and effort—it can actually backfire. I know because I recently celebrated a work anniversary, and my inbox is filled with one message after the next that reads, “Congrats on the anniversary! Hope you’re doing well.”
It’s a lovely thought, but in reality, that’s all it is—a passing thought. I feel like the sender—while being nice—didn’t take the time to write anything specific for me to respond to. So, I haven’t gotten back to anyone (which kinda defeats the entire point of sending the message). Maybe I sound cold, but I don’t think I’m alone in skipping past a form email.
Naturally, this got me thinking on what I would’ve responded to. It is just a work anniversary, it’s not like I needed flowers. And the answer’s surprisingly simple: One personalized line. That’s all—that’s the big secret. If someone had shifted the wording just a bit and mentioned anything about me, it would’ve stood out (and I’d have known the person was hoping I’d write back). Not to mention, one additional piece of information would’ve given me a jumping off point to respond.
To help you do this, I’ve come up with a few templates for you to use. And, it gets even better: Since this strategy doesn’t just apply when sending “congrats” messages, I’ve also included options for other situations.
1. When You’re Congratulating Someone on a Work Anniversary
“Congrats on the anniversary! Hope you’re doing well.”
“LinkedIn told me you’re celebrating a work anniversary: Congrats! I always smile when I think about the time we [worked together/met at that networking event/ran into each other in another city].”
“Congrats on the work anniversary. I look forward to seeing you next time I’m in [your city]/ at [upcoming event].”
“I see your celebrating a work anniversary at [Company]. Congrats! Any exciting new projects you’re working on?”
Pro Tip: If this person is a distant contact and you’ve never had any interactions, spend a few minutes looking through his or her profile to see if you can add a comment about a recent post or update.
2. When You’re Asking to Connect
“I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”
“It was great meeting you at [place]. I'd like to add you to my LinkedIn network.”
“I’ve enjoyed emailing with you about [subject] and I'd like to connect with you on LinkedIn.”
“Thanks so much for being in touch about [topic]. I'd like to stay in touch on LinkedIn.”
Pro Tip: This approach works for people you haven’t met, too. Here’s how to send a successful request to connect to a stranger.
3. When You’re Asking for a Recommendation
“I'm writing to ask if you would write a brief recommendation of my work that I can include on my LinkedIn profile. If you have any questions, please let me know. Thanks in advance for your help.”
“I'm writing to ask if you would write a brief recommendation of my work that I can include on my LinkedIn profile. I’m hoping to showcase my event planning skills, so I thought of you, since I’ve assisted with five events for your company over the past year. Thanks in advance for your help.”
“I'm writing to ask if you would write a brief recommendation of my work that I can include on my LinkedIn profile. I’ve been working to develop my volunteer management skills and would love to include a note from you, as one of our most active volunteers. Thanks in advance for your help.”
Pro Tip: Whenever possible, offer to return the favor in the form of a recommendation or in another applicable way.
Muse Master Coach Jenny Foss perfectly sums up the importance of customization: “…you absolutely cannot use the LinkedIn default text to communicate with professional contacts. Make it personal. Make it specific. Make it clear that you’re not the laziest person alive.”
You’re reaching out with a goal—to connect, to reconnect, or ask for a recommendation—but above all to make a positive impression. So, take the time to add one personal line: It’ll show you care, and it make it all the more likely you’ll receive a response.
Sara McCord is a freelance writer and editor, who most frequently covers the career beat. For nearly three years, she was an editor at The Muse, and she's regularly contributed career advice to Mashable. Her advice has been published across the web (Forbes, Newsweek, Fast Company,TIME, Inc., Business Insider, CNBC and more). Sara has experience managing programs; recruiting, interviewing, and referring job applicants; building strategic partnerships; advising executive directors; and supporting a national network of volunteers. Learn more and send her a note through her website, or follow her on Twitter @sarajmccord.More from this Author