This morning, when I logged into LinkedIn, I had nine connection requests waiting for me. Some were from recruiters, some were from total strangers, some were from fellow writers, and some were from old classmates—but they all said the exact same thing:
“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”
It baffles me that everyone isn’t customizing their invitations—but in fact, very few people do. Those 300 characters can have a big impact, though: If you’re connecting with someone you know well, it’s a great opportunity to say something nice and reinforce the relationship. If you’re connecting with someone you don’t know well, it’s a great opportunity to remind him or her how you met. If you’re connecting with someone you don’t know at all, it’s your only opportunity to convince him or her to accept.
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However, maybe your problem isn’t finding motivation—it’s finding what to say. That’s why I’ve created 10 templates for LinkedIn invitations, so no matter who you’re connecting with, you’ll have the right words. (Of course, you’ll need to adapt them to your own situation.)
1. A Colleague
Everyone loves feeling like their contributions have been noticed, so when connecting with co-workers, mention their projects, interests, or strengths. This is an ideal way to give your colleagues a boost and strengthen your professional relationships. It may even be just the prompt they need to endorse you or write you a glowing LinkedIn recommendation.
Although I’ve never gotten the chance to work with you directly, I’ve heard rave reviews about your sales techniques and ability to work with tough clients. Hopefully one of these days I can see you in action! ’Til then, I’ll catch you in the break room.
2. A New Colleague
Obviously, you’ll want to be less familiar if you’re connecting with people you’ve just met. Say you recently landed a role with a tech company and you want to connect with your supervisor. You should still compliment her and show you’re familiar with what she does—just be a little more reserved.
I’m so excited to join the product development department. The team’s innovation and commitment to always finding the best testing methodologies is one of the reasons I was so drawn to work at Jones Wheeler. Looking forward to contributing.
3. A Former Co-worker
You’d assume everyone you’d ever worked with you would remember you, but if you worked at a big company, if you only had the job for a year or two, or if it was a long time ago, you might find your connection requests being denied. There’s an easy fix: Describe exactly when, where, and how you worked with someone.
It was such a pleasure working together at GX from 1999 to 2001. Your computer troubleshooting skills were the best in the office—can you imagine if we had to go back to working on those huge computers? If you have the chance, I’d love to catch up and learn more about what you’re doing in your new role at Microsoft.
4. Someone You Know Casually
It may seem a little awkward to personalize a connection request to Joe, a friend of a friend who you’ve talked to at a couple get-togethers. The last time you saw each other, you were swigging beers—won’t it feel weird to slip into work-speak?
Yup—so don’t! Use a friendly tone, but reference Joe’s career to acknowledge you’re not at a party, you’re on LinkedIn.
I’m glad Aaron introduced us. Next time we run into each other, you’ll have to tell me more about what you do for Pfizer—I’ve always been interested in the healthcare industry.
5. Someone You Met at a Networking Event
When you’re trying to connect with people you only talked to for a couple minutes or hours, it’s important you remind them right away who you are. Give a reason for connecting as well. A good default is so you can keep tabs on their career, but you can also suggest meeting for coffee, trading tips, providing each other with new contacts, helping each other with projects, informing each other about open positions, discussing industry news—the possibilities are endless.
It was great speaking to you at the ESRI User Conference in San Diego last month. The mapping and charting work you do for airports sounded fascinating! I’d definitely like to stay up-to-date on your career.
6. Someone You Admire
Sending connection requests to total strangers is always tricky, because their first instinct is to say no. Again, it’s important to immediately establish who you are and why you’re reaching out. Prove you’re not just on a hunt to break 500 contacts by specifically referencing projects they’ve worked on or achievements they’ve made. (Bonus points if you find this info on an external site, not LinkedIn!)
You should also include an ask—the reason you’re reaching out. Maybe you want an informational interview, or a way to see what he or she is working on, or the opportunity to help him or her with a project. One exception: You should never ask for a job over LinkedIn.
Dear Erin Holt,
I’m a college senior interested in working in marketing. For the last year, I’ve been following your work for Bryan & Associates, and it’s really impressed me. I particularly loved your campaign recent campaign in The Atlantic—that multimedia component was totally unexpected and really effective. If you ever have 20 or so minutes, I’d love to hear more about how you started working in the field and what skills you believe are most relevant to the profession.
Thank you so much,
7. Someone in the Same LinkedIn Group
Maybe you’re in the Society of Professional Journalists group, and you notice one frequent poster always posts unique insights and relevant articles. Luckily, the fact you’re in the same group gives him an automatic reason to accept.
I’m also in the Society of Professional Journalists, and I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts. The piece you shared a week or two ago about the future of data journalism was pretty thought-provoking. I’d love to keep in touch and learn more about your work.
8. A Recruiter
In general, you should contact recruiters with which you have something in common, whether that’s a mutual connection, participation in a professional organization, or membership in the same LinkedIn group. If you want to reach out but don’t have anything in common, career expert Jenny Foss recommends checking out what groups a recruiter is in and joining one of them.
Dear Samantha Kennedy,
I found your profile on the Association of Professional Women page and wanted to reach out to discuss potentially working together. I’m a social media strategist with six years of experience and currently seeking new opportunities. I’d love to chat about whether my background might be a fit for any of your openings, and I’d also be happy to connect you with other professionals in my field.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
9. An Alumnus
Most people feel fondly about their alma mater, which means your request has a good shot of being successful. Appeal to their school spirit, and, like always, prove you spent more than 30 seconds on their LinkedIn profile before you clicked “Connect.”
I see that you graduated from my current university, UC Berkeley—go Bears! I’m an aerospace engineering major and would be excited to hear more about your work with NASA. I’ll be in your area in a few weeks for vacation; if you have any free time, I’d love to meet up for coffee.
Thanks so much,
P.S. Did you watch Saturday’s game against Stanford? That last quarter was so tense.
10. Someone You Want to Work With
Perhaps you’re trying to get a side project off the ground, and you want to hire a graphic designer. Or maybe you’re a software engineer looking to collaborate with someone who’s really experienced in a particular coding language. Or maybe, like the writers that contact me, you want someone to bounce ideas off of and trade feedback with.
The key is making it explicitly clear the kind of relationship you’re seeking. If they’re not interested, you’ll want to know right away so you can move on to the next potential partner.
I was really impressed by the social media strategy you put together for Bella Bru Coffee Shop. I’m also a small business owner, and I’m interested in hiring you for a similar project. If you’re interested, let me know and we can arrange a phone call to discuss timeline, rates, scope, etc.
Looking forward to possibly working with you,
With these templates, you’ll never have to wonder what to write in that invitation box again. Good luck!