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LinkedIn Networking: Don’t Be A Stranger

In 1977, Billy Joel released one of his most famous songs The Stranger. The song opens with the lyrics:

Well, we all have a face

That we hide away forever

And we take them out

And show ourselves when everyone has gone

When it comes to best practices for networking on LinkedIn, don’t be that person. Don’t be the stranger.

Imagine that you are attending a professional networking event. You are engaged in polite conversation with a new network contact. Along comes another person. He approaches you holding out his business card for you to take. But he does not say a word. No introduction. No context for the networking connection. No elevator pitch. He just holds the business card, stares and expects you to take it. Kind of creepy right? If you are like me, you turn and walk away…without the business card.

What does this have to do with networking on LinkedIn? Everything.

I am not here to say that I am the most popular guy on LinkedIn. Maybe in my dreams but not in real life! But I do receive a not inconsequential number of LinkedIn connection requests each week. A non-scientific study of those connection requests indicates that over 75% of those connection requests arrive in my inbox with no note of introduction. No explanation of why we should connect on LinkedIn. No indication of the potential value of a mutual network connection. No context. The virtual equivalent of the guy standing and staring at me holding his business card and not saying a word. A corresponding scientific study indicates that I reject over 90% of those LinkedIn connection requests.

If you want to successfully expand your professional network on LinkedIn, always be sure to personalize your LinkedIn invitation to connect. LinkedIn allows you to add a note to your connection request. The note is limited to 300 characters (including spaces) so you must be succinct. Assume 2 to 3 sentences maximum. One sentence that explains why you would like to connect with this individual (what’s in it for you). And one sentence on how your networking prospect would benefit from connecting with you (what’s in it for them). A quick internet search will provide you with numerous examples of personalized invitation requests. I like this simple article from USA Today that offers 10 invitation templates designed for soon to be and recent college graduates.

Effective professional networking is based on a balanced give and take relationship. It is not all take. You must be willing to give and contribute to your network to be successful. Make an investment of 60 seconds to personalize your LinkedIn invitation and explain the context and the rationale for the potential give and take of this new network connection. You will be rewarded for your efforts. And you won’t be a stranger any longer.

Dan Troup is the founder of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a certified career coach can assist you in your job search, please contact AdvantEdge Careers at:


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