Messaging someone on LinkedIn to ask for advice can be nerve-wracking, but it’s an effective way to build your professional network and get guidance from industry experts. The key is crafting a thoughtful note that compellingly explains why you’d value their insight. Follow these tips to reach out successfully.
Decide Who to Contact
Research connections and profiles to pinpoint people who could offer helpful advice based on their job titles, companies, expertise, shared connections, and interests. Consider messaging:
- Former managers and colleagues who know your skills and goals
- Alumni from your university who work in your target field
- Industry leaders and experts whose guidance could be invaluable
- Second-degree connections at companies you want to learn about
Avoid messaging complete strangers out of the blue, which can seem intrusive. Focus on reaching out to contacts who are likely to remember you or share common ground.
Customize Your Connection Request
Before messaging, send a personalized connection request explaining who you are and why you want to connect. For example:
“Hi Jane, I saw that you work at XYZ Company as a product manager. I’m interested in product management roles and would love to connect with you to learn more about your experiences and career insights.”
This gives context about you and your reasons for connecting. If they accept, the foundation is already laid for you to message them.
Craft Your Message
When writing your message, get right to the point about why you’d like their advice while still being personable. Follow these tips:
- Include a warm greeting referencing your connection, such as “Hi Jane, I hope your week is going well!”
- Jog their memory about who you are and how you’re connected if needed, like “I’m Mike Smith, we worked together at ABC Company in 2018.”
- Explain specifically why you are reaching out and how they can help. For example, “I saw on your profile that you moved from marketing to product management a few years ago. I’m interested in making a similar transition to PM roles.”
- Be clear about the type of advice you need, like career path insights, tips for landing interviews, company culture advice, etc.
- Emphasize why their perspective would be so valuable to you.
- Keep it concise but friendly – 3-5 sentences is ideal.
Avoid generic messages that could be sent to anyone. The more you can tailor it to them and their background, the better.
Propose a Quick Meeting
Rather than asking open-ended questions in your initial message, propose a 15-30 minute meeting to further discuss over phone or video. For example:
“I’d love to set up a quick 15 minute call to hear about your career journey and get your advice on breaking into PM roles. Would you have any time this week or next for a brief phone call?”
This gives them context on the size of the ask and that you won’t take up too much of their time. Provide a few date/time options that work for your schedule.
Follow Up Politely
If they don’t respond within a week, follow up. Say you’re checking in about the meeting request and are still very interested in their insights. However, don’t be too pushy if they continue not to respond.
If they decline or are unable to meet, politely ask if they have any advice they could share over message. While a call is ideal, some guidance is better than none.
Thank Them for Their Time and Advice
Once you’ve connected, be sure to thank them profusely for their advice and for taking the time to speak with you. Key follow-ups include:
- Send a thank you message recapping their advice and key takeaways from the discussion.
- Connect them to people in your network who could be helpful contacts.
- Provide updates on your job search progress and how their advice has been beneficial.
- Continue to nurture the relationship by liking/commenting on their posts and keeping in touch periodically.
This appreciation can go a long way in strengthening your connection for the long term.
Ask for an Introduction
If the discussion is going well, it may be appropriate to request an introduction to someone at a company or in a role you’re targeting. Explain why you’d value meeting them and how it could help your goals.
However, don’t overextend their generosity. Warm contacts are more receptive to helping than cold contacts.
What to Avoid When Messaging
There are a few key mistakes to sidestep when reaching out:
- Being too aggressive or demanding about meeting up. Maintain a polite, grateful tone.
- Not personalizing the message enough or making it too generic.
- Contacting them out of the blue without any prior connection.
- Asking for job or internship opportunities outright. Focus more on advice.
- Messaging without having a strong LinkedIn profile established.
- Reaching out before you know what type of guidance would actually be helpful.
Set Yourself Up for Success
In addition to crafting an effective note, optimize your messaging outreach by:
- Having an up-to-date LinkedIn profile that showcases your background, skills, and career interests.
- Joining relevant LinkedIn groups and building connections within your target industry.
- Getting recommendations on your profile from managers and colleagues.
- Following company pages to stay up-to-date on new developments and opportunities.
With a thoughtful approach and tactful messaging, you can successfully leverage your LinkedIn network to get the advice you need to reach your career goals.