When it comes to career advice I often say that one of the most important things to do is network. Why? Because current information says that between 70-85% of people get their next role via networking. Much of this is done offline, over coffee or conversations with friends and family but if you’re looking to go online, then I would recommend building your tribe on LinkedIn.
I have written a post previously about using LinkedIn effectively if you’re one of the very many people who have an account but don’t use it. If, however, you have started building your tribe on LinkedIn you may be wondering how to connect with others and also, how to respond to invitations coming into you.
Building your tribe on LinkedIn
In my opinion, it is better to start building your tribe in your own way, connecting with people that you know, that you can help and who might be able to help you. It’s your tribe, your rules. That said, I do get asked frequently how I use LinkedIn, so this is my approach.
Connecting to people you know already
When it comes to sending LinkedIn invitations I have tended to connect with people I have met in real life, either in person or virtually. If we have attended a conference together, worked together or maybe met in a personal manner but then wanted to connect professionally as well. This is a fairly easy way to do things as you both know each other and you might even prewarn folks that you are going to send a request so that they are expecting it.
If we have met at a conference or another event then in the message (always send a message) then I might write something like this:
It was lovely to meet you today at [event]. I hope that you enjoyed the session on xxx – it gave me so much to think about! I would love to connect and stay in touch.
Connecting with people you don’t know
As a general rule I don’t send LinkedIn invitations to people I don’t know. However, if I have come across someone who has helped or inspired me in some way, for example, I might have watched a YouTube video that they have made and found it helpful or read an article they have written, then I will follow them on LinkedIn. If I continue to get value from them, then I might send an invitation saying so e.g.
I wanted to get in touch and say how much your post [article name] helped me. I’ve been following you on LinkedIn for a while and really enjoy reading the other articles you have published – they always seem to be perfect timing for what I need. I would really appreciate the opportunity to add you to my network.
The other scenario I have where I might connect with folks I don’t know is if they have liked an article or commented on a post that I have written. In this case, I might view their profile, see what we have in common and whether I would a) like to connect and b) if I could help them on their career journey in some way. If so, I might invite them to connect and write something like the following:
Hi [Name]. Thank you for taking the time to share your wisdom and comment on my post. I thought you might be interested in reading an article I published today.
Responding to LinkedIn invitations
Similarly to sending out invitations, when it comes to building my tribe on LinkedIn I have historically only connected with people who I know, who are in the same sector as me and those I think I could help. Whether they added a message or not, these are easy connections to build. That has changed over the years and now I do connect with folks I don’t know…if they meet my criteria!
Should you connect with people you don’t know?
When I was first on LinkedIn I got very few requests from folks I didn’t know and so I was able to easily decide if I would connect. Nowadays, though, like many other people, I am inundated with strangers wanting to connect, and if I’m honest, it can sometimes feel a little awkward.
Here are my criteria for connecting with people who send me requests:
- Do I know them personally?
- Do I know them professionally?
- Have we got mutual connections?
- Are they a coach or similar?
- Are they asking for help?
- Do they seem genuine?
This last one is a big one. At least half of the requests I get share mutual connections with me are a coach of some kind and on the face of it could be a good connection. There are some red flags for me when it comes to authentic connection requests:
- We don’t know each other at all
- They have things like “I help coaches build their businesses to six-figures in just six months” or any other phrase that makes me feel a bit like they are trying to sell me something
- A message that begins with “I have a really powerful group/product/service that I think you would love.”
These three things combined ring massive ‘they are trying to sell me something’ vibes. For me, LinkedIn isn’t about being sold to in an unsolicited manner. I am looking for an authentic connection where we can collaborate and/or where we can make a difference to each other. Granted, not everyone feels this way. As I said above, your tribe, your rules.
Responding to invitations from strangers
In my opinion, LinkedIn is becoming increasingly a space for businesses trying to catch a lead in an inauthentic manner. The best and most common way to deal with these requests is to ignore them. There is a button that you can press to report/say you don’t know the person if you wish to do that.
Sometimes, however, a request from a stranger comes in and it intrigues you. What then? I often connect and reserve the right to disconnect if I am immediately spammed! Here are a couple of responses I use:
Thanks so much for inviting me to connect with you here on LinkedIn as we continue to expand our networks. I notice in your profile that we share some common interests in xxx. I’d love to hear more about your opinions on xxx.
My interests lie in supporting women in/aspiring to leadership in their career decisions. If you’d like to know more, I write on my blog at www.yourtimetogrow.com/blog. Alternatively, feel free to connect with me on Instagram @yourtimetogrow. If there’s anything I can do to support you, please let me know.
If you’re looking for your next career step, it is worth following people first before you connect and then sending a genuine and personalised request. The key thing for me when it comes to building your tribe on LinkedIn is the same as building connections in real life. It comes down to trust and respect. If we have already built trust, it’s an easy connection, if we haven’t, let’s do so in an authentic and respectful manner.