LinkedIn is known as a useful social media network for making connections with people who can help you achieve your career goals. The trick is forging those connections successfully by knowing the best ways to ask for (and get) a LinkedIn introduction.
3 Degrees of LinkedIn Connections
You’re aiming for what LinkedIn calls first-degree connections; they’re the people you’re directly connected to because they’ve accepted your invitation or you’ve accepted theirs. (Second-degree connections are people on LinkedIn who are connected to your first degrees and third degrees are connected to your second degrees.)
I have nearly 1,000 first-degree connections and through them, LinkedIn says, I’m consequently connected to more than 13 million people – each of my connections has connections, who have connections …
Those kind of numbers might sound impressive. But in reality, LinkedIn connections are only meaningful if you turn them into real relationships.
Reasons for a LinkedIn Introduction
Why would you want to request a LinkedIn introduction? There are all sorts of reasons.
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You might be eager to reconnect with a colleague from years ago. Or you could be trying to ask someone for an informational interview at a company where you’d like to work. Perhaps you’re looking for a warm lead from someone who could help you nail a job you saw posted.
LinkedIn has a pretty good explanation of the mechanics of requesting an introduction. Its step-by-step guide, called Requesting an Introduction, shows you how to use the “get introduced” capability found on each person’s LinkedIn profile.
Nuances Worth Knowing
But there are a couple of nuances you need to know about requesting an introduction that LinkedIn doesn’t mention:
The further removed you are from the person you want to be introduced to, the harder it is to get an introduction. If you want to connect with someone you already know, that’s easy. Just search for the person on LinkedIn, select him or her, click on the choice saying how you know that person (colleague, classmate, we’ve done business together, friend or other), include a personal note and send an invitation.
Instead of using the wording Linkedin has selected as a default, which is generally “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn,” I always recommend replacing those words with a personal note of your own. Your chances of getting accepted decline when you go the generic route, since the recipient may find the request sterile or might not remember who you are.
But say you want to be introduced to Tom and don’t know him personally. You’ve never worked together and you’re not friends or classmates. You have a first-degree connection to Joe, though, and Joe has one with Mary (which means you have a second-degree connection with her) and Mary has one with Tom. That means Tom is a third-degree connection for you; the two of you don’t have a mutual contact in common.
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Now, here’s where things get difficult. Since Joe is not directly connected to Tom, he can’t make the introduction for you. Instead, he must forward your request to Mary. In an ideal world, Joe will add a compelling note to Mary about why she’d want to introduce you to Tom even though she probably doesn’t know you.
You can see, however, that there are multiple places where this introduction request can get stopped cold. Joe might not know Mary well enough to forward your request. Joe might not be able to persuade Mary to help you out. Mary might not know Tom well enough to make the introduction.
Bottom line: I don’t recommend requesting an introduction to someone who is a third-degree connection.
Keep your requests to second-degree connections, where you and the person you’d like to be introduced to have someone in common. These are the steps to ask a second-degree contact to make an introduction on your behalf:
- Locate the LinkedIn profile of the person you want to be introduced to.
- Click "Get introduced" on the right side of that profile.
- Look through the second-degree shared connections that LinkedIn says could introduce you to that person.
- Click on one of those connections and enter a subject for your message.
- Write a message to the person who you hope will make the introduction.
- Click the blue Send Request box.
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The key to a successful “ask” is crafting your message properly. That means writing a killer, but polite, introduction request.
LinkedIn says the way to do this is by stating your intent – being clear about why you’re asking for an introduction – and giving the person an “out” so he or she has a way to say no without feeling awful.
That’s good advice, but I have a four more suggestions to improve the chances of getting a yes to your request:
Boosting Your Odds of Success
1. Create an intriguing subject line. Subject lines determine whether messages in a crowded inbox get opened. You want your message to be one that does.
In addition to stirring someone’s curiosity, subject lines should be relevant. Make yours personal. Add humor if that fits with your personality.
Here’s an example of a great subject line: “Finally, taking you up on your sage advice!”
And here’s an example of a clunker: “Need an introduction.”
2. Make sure it’s clear how you and the person who’ll introduce you know each other. Often, you’ll be asking a colleague or friend. But you might be trying to get an introduction from someone you don’t know very well. If so, make it easy on him or her; you don’t want to make the recipient of your request guess who you are.
Your message could start off with something as simple as: “We met last year at the Pegasus conference during the financial modeling breakout session. I enjoyed our conversation about big data.”
3. Be as specific as possible about why you’re asking for the introduction. Talk about why connecting to the particular person could help you reach your goals and why you decided to ask the person who’s receiving your request.
4. Be gracious. Soften any deadlines you may have with wording such as: “It would be really helpful to me if you could provide your response by … ” People will respond to an invitation more than a demand.
Here’s an example of a LinkedIn Introduction request that puts it all together:
Subject Line: Following up on your thoughtful advice on clothing companies
We met briefly at the Delta Leadership conference last fall, during the round-table discussion. To refresh your memory, I am changing careers, from being an accountant to being a fashion merchandiser. You were kind enough to give me advice on companies that might appreciate my background.
Since we last spoke, I’ve decided it would be helpful to get online clothing company experience. Acme Shoes is one of the companies I admire in the online world and I noticed that you have a first-degree connection to Ellen Jones, a marketing director there.
Would you be willing to introduce me to Ellen? If you feel uncomfortable making an introduction, no worries. Alternatively, I would appreciate any advice you have on how best to approach Ellen.
Any help you could provide before the end of the month would be greatly appreciated. Thank you and I hope to hear from you soon!
After You’ve Made the Request
Once you’ve sent the LinkedIn introduction request, detach yourself from the outcome. If you’ve done as LinkedIn suggests and provided an alternative to making an introduction, prepare to be OK with whichever option the person picks.
Your connection may not know the other person well enough to make an introduction or might feel uncomfortable doing so. But he or she might respond with some advice. Be grateful for whatever help you receive.
And don’t be a pest. One gentle reminder after a week is fine, but it’s best not to nudge sooner than that or more than once. Remember: You are relying on the other person’s good will to get what you want.
After you do hear back, show your appreciation. Regardless of whether you get the introduction or not, thank your contact for his or her time and effort in considering your request. End the conversation on a positive note.
By being gracious throughout the process, you’ll be treating your LinkedIn network as the true asset that it is. As a result, you’ll be well on your way to transforming your contacts into meaningful relationships.