When reaching out to someone for the first time on LinkedIn, the opening message you send can make or break the conversation. The goal of your initial outreach should be to introduce yourself, explain why you want to connect, and encourage the recipient to respond. An effective first message is friendly, personalized, and gets right to the point within just a few sentences. Avoid using generic templates and take the time to craft a thoughtful note that shows you did your research on the person’s background. Highlight common connections, interests, or professional experiences you share to establish rapport. Ask an open-ended question related to their work to kick off the dialogue. With a well-written, tailored introduction, you’re more likely to make a great first impression that leads to more meaningful networking opportunities.
Research the recipient’s profile
Before typing out your message, closely review the person’s LinkedIn profile to identify details you can reference. Look for current job title, employer, education, skills, volunteering activities, causes they support, publications, shared connections, and more. Don’t mention anything too personal, but pull out relevant nuggets that provide fodder for an authentic, non-generic note. CUSTOMIZED TO USER’S PROFILE.
Highlight common ground
Point out any experiences, backgrounds, or interests you have in common with the recipient. This could include same alma mater, employers, geographic location, professional organizations, skills, etc. Showcasing shared connections helps break the ice since you already have something in common. “I see you also went to University of Michigan and know John Smith” or “Looks like we both volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. What a great organization!” MENTION SHARED CONNECTIONS/EXPERIENCES.
Explain why you want to connect
Briefly share your purpose for reaching out, whether looking to network within the same industry, learn about their career path, discuss a mutual business contact, or collaborate on volunteer projects. Being upfront about your intentions from the start gives helpful context. “I’m interested in learning more about your experience working at XYZ Company” or “As a fellow graphic designer, I wanted to connect and exchange ideas.” STATE INTENT OF OUTREACH.
Pose an open-ended question
End your note by asking an open-ended question related to their background or expertise to encourage a response. This gives them an easy prompt to react to and continue the dialogue vs. a message they can just ignore. “What advice would you give someone looking to transition into product management?” or “Have you noticed any exciting industry trends in the last few years?” INVITE ONGOING CONVERSATION.
Keep it short
Avoid sprawling blocks of text when possible. Get to the point within 2-3 concise sentences focused on your shared connections, reason for connecting, and a question to drive the discussion. You can elaborate more after you’ve made initial contact. Too much text right off the bat can feel overwhelming. BE BRIEF & FOCUSED.
Proofread before sending
Double check spelling, grammar, titles, and other details. A sloppy message full of errors doesn’t reflect well on you. Read your note out loud to catch awkward phrasing. Typos or obvious mistakes leave a bad first impression. TAKE TIME TO REVIEW & EDIT.
Personalize each message
Avoid copy-pasting generic, identically worded notes. Take the time to customize based on what you learn from each person’s unique profile and background. Recycled introductions come across as impersonal and thoughtless. No one wants to think they received a blanket template message. MAKE EACH ONE UNIQUE.
Use a warm, friendly tone
Keep the language conversational, sincere and approachable. Avoid stiff, overly formal language. Adopt a helpful, authentic tone a colleague would appreciate. Starting out overly sales-y or self-promotional can be off-putting. BE GENIINE & PERSONABLE.
Follow up if no response
If you don’t hear back within 1-2 weeks, consider a friendly nudge. Sometimes messages get buried. A quick, polite follow-up shows you’re determined to make a connection. “Just circling back on my earlier message below. Hoping we can connect sometime! Let me know if you have any questions.” PERSIST (APPROPRIATELY).
Connect first before asking for favors
Unless you already have an established relationship, avoid asking for introductions, recommendations, job leads, etc. right off the bat. Take time to build the relationship first before asking for favors. People will be more receptive after you’ve established trust and rapport. NETWORK FIRST, ASK LATER.
Read their posts and articles
Check if they’ve published any long-form posts, articles or content on LinkedIn or elsewhere online. Reference something interesting you read to show you’ve done your homework. “I read your great article on digital marketing trends. So insightful!” DEMONSTRATE FAMILIARITY.
Go beyond just connecting
Don’t stop at sending an initial note and connecting online. Offer to meet for coffee, volunteer together, or follow-up by phone. Convert online connections into offline networking. Meeting in person strengthens bonds. FOLLOW UP OFFLINE.
Connect with shared passions
Look for signs of shared interests like sports teams, travel, volunteering cause, etc. and mention it. Having non-work related passions in common helps builds rapport on a more personal level. “Saw your Boston Marathon photos – I just ran it last year!” BOND OVER MUTUAL INTERESTS.
Be authentically you
Let your personality and personal brand shine through. Share something quirky or vulnerably honest if it feels right. Appropriate humor and wit is always welcome. When done right, it makes you more relatable, interesting, and human. SHOW YOUR TRUE SELF.
Offer to help
If relevant, subtly mention how you’d be happy to offer advice, make an introduction, collaborate, or assist them in some way. Avoid pushy sales tactics, but show you’re a helpful resource. “Please let me know if you ever want to brainstorm social media strategies” or “I’d be glad to connect you to our digital marketing director.” EXTEND HELPFUL OFFERS.
Follow up with thanks
Always send a thank you note if they accept your invite or continue the conversation. Express your appreciation and reiterate your interest in connecting further. Thank them for taking time to write back and share advice. Basic etiquette goes a long way. SHOW GRATITUDE.
Not everyone will respond right away. Recipients often need to wait for the right moment to thoughtfully reply. Avoid hounding with constant reminders if you don’t hear back. Persistence is good but don’t overdo it. Give people time and space. HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS.
Make it about them
Keep the focus on learning about the other person, not promoting yourself. Ask questions, listen intently, and look for ways to be helpful vs. self-serving. Networking is about give and take, not just taking. Prioritize their needs and goals. BE GENEROUS & SELFLESS.
Check back periodically
Nurture the new connection by checking in periodically with updates, shared content, congratulations on work milestones, etc. Look for reasons to keep the social relationship alive vs. letting it go cold. Don’t just connect once and move on. INVEST OVER THE LONG TERM.
Suggest meeting up
Propose getting together for a real-life chat over coffee or lunch. Virtual connections are great, but try to bring it offline when possible. Face-to-face meetings help form stronger bonds and trust that opens more possibilities. MEET IN REAL LIFE.
Make requests, not demands
Politely make requests instead of demands. Saying “I’d appreciate connecting when you have a chance” sounds more appealing than “Let’s connect ASAP.” Give people the space to decide if and when they want to engage. BE RESPECTFUL & GRACIOUS.
Target recipients who align with your professional goals and can offer mutually beneficial value. Don’t spam everyone randomly. Be strategic and thoughtful about who you engage. Quality over quantity wins. FOCUS ON RELEVANT CONNECTIONS.
Close your note on an upbeat, forward-looking note conveying optimism about the possibilities of connecting. Ending with “Hope to hear from you soon!” or “Looking forward to networking with you!” leaves things open-ended. BE UPBEAT & HOPEFUL.