One of LinkedIn’s killer applications is its ability to leverage your “first degree network” to get introductions to your second degree contacts– for recruiting, landing interviews or prospect meetings, partnerships, or just to learn from others. To get the meetings you want, make it easy, for both your first degree connection to forward your request and for the recipient to agree.
Let’s take an example based on a client’s situation. Ellen wanted to meet Susan, a second degree connection, and she saw that John was their mutual first degree connection. Ellen’s introduction request to John contained these six elements, in the sequence below:
- Start with the reason for your message: Ellen began with “Hi John, I see that Susan Smith is in your first-degree network. I would very much appreciate an introduction to her for a 10 minute conversation.” Note—asking for just 10 minutes makes it very easy for John to forward that connection, since everyone has 10 minutes available somewhere on their calendar. Also, note the word “appreciate.” I’m amazed at how many clients forget to show appreciation or gratitude when asking for something!
- Then say why you want the meeting: “I noticed that Susan works in alumni relations at Ivy University. Over the long term, I’m very interested in making a move into higher education. I would welcome the opportunity to get Susan’s perspective on how the school is organized and where I might be able to add value down the road.”
- Say you won’t ask for a job: Ellen took the pressure off by specifically saying she won’t be asking for a job. “In the conversation I seek, I will not be asking Susan about job openings; Rather, I’m looking to gain her insight into Ivy and possibly other institutions of higher-education.”
- Make the request mutually beneficial: Your first degree connection is much more likely to pass on your request if she/he feels they are helping both you and the other person in their first degree network (and your intended recipient is much more likely to respond positively). “I believe this meeting will be mutually beneficial. Given my many years of experience in fundraising, I could share with Susan some ideas that she may find useful for her efforts.”
- Include your “pitch” about how you can help an organization: You’ll generate more enthusiasm for the meeting by doing this. Ellen wrote: “Susan may be interested to know that I have 10 years of experience in fundraising at non-profits, as is shown on my LinkedIn profile. During that time, I:
- Met or exceeded every annual fundraising goal for the past 10 years
- Planned and delivered dozens of successful events
- etc. …
- Give your 1st degree an out. Perhaps John has sent too many introduction requests to Susan, or he is uncomfortable passing on this request for other reasons. Ellen still wants to maintain a good, respectful relationship with John! “If you feel that it may not be appropriate to pass on this request, I totally understand. Regardless, I hope we stay in touch. Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.”
Consider Sending the Introduction Request via Email
Just because you found the connection on LinkedIn, it doesn’t mean that you need to send your introduction request via LinkedIn as well. In fact, email is usually the preferred channel. The reason: we’re all too familiar with our email inbox, but many people show lesser levels of comfort and responsiveness with LinkedIn messages. I routinely encounter situations with clients where the LinkedIn message doesn’t get a response, but the email does (the reverse is less true).
Therefore, I recommend that you default to using email to send your introduction request. Use LinkedIn to request the introduction only if a) you don’t have your first degree connection’s email address, or b) your first degree connection prefers that you request the introduction via LinkedIn.
Whether you use email or LinkedIn to request your introduction, the six key points to include are the same.
If you are in a job search, you may wonder “why did Ellen bother with this message if she wasn’t asking for a job?” The reason is that these types of meetings give you access to the “hidden job market.” By meeting with a number of the “right” people this way, and keeping in touch, you absolutely will begin to get referrals for interviews, or they’ll think of you first when something opens up. See this post and this one (and this one) for more on the hidden job market.
Consider Contacting the Person Directly: Maybe you barely know the person in your network who can introduce you. Or, perhaps you have less than stellar confidence in how your first degree connection might represent you in an introduction. Or maybe time is of the essence— and this type of networking can take time! In these cases, you may want to send an email (or LinkedIn Group message or InMail) directly to the person you are seeking to meet, saying in the subject line “Our mutual shared connections on LinkedIn” or something similar.
Fully Leverage LinkedIn’s Ability to Find the Right People: Use diverse LinkedIn tools including “Advanced People Searches,” “Company Pages,” the “Skills” section, and LinkedIn’s Alumni tool, to find people to connect with. If you are unsure what to write in your direct messages to people on LinkedIn, or how to best leverage LinkedIn’s numerous people-finding tools to get career-advancing meetings, see my book Advanced LinkedIn for many examples.