What Not To Do When Networking On LinkedIn

Yesterday, I was speaking at a business group on the concept of career management, and among the many topics I covered, we discussed networking. Particularly, the do’s and don’ts of how to do it right. Then, ironically, I received the following astounding e-mail shortly after my speech concluded. As an open networker, I don’t mind connecting to folks, but when any of us get messages from someone we’ve never met or interacted with (like the one below), we totally cringe:


Good afternoon Dawn, Thank you for connecting with me via LinkedIn. I’ve been with (ABC Company) for 5+ years. During that time I’ve managed to elude the rounds of layoffs due to the economy…until three weeks ago. Please review my Linkedin profile, endorse any of my qualifications you deem appropriate and should you hear of any job opportunities in (state), I hope you will reach out to me or point them in my direction. I have been in the (XYZ) industry for many years, have stellar references, am extremely hands-on, and strategically capable. Thank you in advance for your any assistance you can offer. With kind regards, Person A
What do you think is wrong with this picture?? This person didn’t get it… at all – which was my first impression. But as a career services provider, I saw someone who was basically becoming their own biggest obstacle to their job search. So, I sent the following e-mail back in response:
Dear Person A, I got your message and wanted to respond with some insights that will hopefully help you with your job search. Please accept this advice in the helpful spirit in which is intended. The message you sent (not sure if you are sending other ones out that are similar) was extremely off-putting – not many people would take the time to provide the reasons as to why, but please forgive me as I am currently channeling my inner career coach right now… Asking for endorsements from someone you don’t know one iota simply comes across as very desperate, and not very focused. It would be better if you asked folks that have first-hand experience with your performance and abilities, rather than asking complete strangers to do this. From the “other side of the coin” perspective, this request comes across as an attempt to leverage my reputation (and subsequent endorsement) for your own personal gain… most folks would walk away, seeing this as unethical. Additionally, requesting to connect then immediately turning around a demand for any job leads seems very entitled. “I don’t know you- why on earth should I help you?” is what most people would think once they read that part of your message. Having worked with many folks in the exact same situation as yourself, my advice is to take the time to build up a meaningful connection before making any kind of “ask” – otherwise, you risk alienating people rather than galvanizing them to act on your behalf. Another helpful suggestion is to pay attention to where the contacts are located; I am in Oregon, so what would be the odds that I would have a lot of connections in (state)? Not very good. Try to find the best-connected people in YOUR target area... that’s critical. Also, as a job search advisor, I frequently coach clients and speak to groups about the value of setting up a job search that is focused on target companies, then leveraging your existing network of contacts to make connections at those top businesses. That’s how networking can pay off. I understand that you are likely in “panic” mode which precipitated the e-mail that you sent, but you’ll be much more effective if you work to build meaningful connections, cultivate the ones you have, and are as specific as possible about target companies that you would like to reach. Hope this helps, and I wish you best of luck in your job search… I know this is a tough time, so hang in there. Best regards, Dawn
Of course, it occurred to me this person might take my message the wrong way and I would get back an ugly response. But I hoped that they wouldn’t. Fortunately, I got an e-mail back that was very appreciative, and the person actually checked on their end and was chagrined to see they had sent me the wrong e-mail content. But the important message here is any time we reach out to someone we don’t know, we need to be mindful of how we are coming across and careful about what we send to them. One networking mistake can completely blow our chances of ever having developed a meaningful relationship with them! Now you know what not to do when networking on LinkedIn, so you can focus more time on the moves that will help you develop useful symbiotic relationships. Image Credit: Shutterstock

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