LinkedIn – Taking a Connection to a Relationship

business high fiveLast week I had the absolute pleasure to speak to the Indianapolis chapter of Human Resource Professional Development Association about LinkedIn and utilizing it to build a personal brand internally and externally. There was one question that I think can be asked in many different ways but boils down to four words:

How do I connect?

Not in a sense of click on the connect button or accept, but how do I really connect with someone after we become connections.

I think one challenge or misconception about LinkedIn is that there is no true communication or connection. It is simple to click a button, request or accept a connection; however it leaves us feeling flat. A simple button does not open the door to communication.

The problem is not with LinkedIn – it is with the user.

The tool is only as good as the way in which you use it.

I have a small tiller. It sat in my garage for a few years all bright and shiny but useless. I also had an area in my back and side yard that was perfect for a garden. I used to be frustrated that I didn’t have a garden and how much work it would be to create that space.

Last spring I used the bright shiny tiller and created my garden. It made quick work of it and by the summer I had a wonderful garden full of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peppers, herbs, cantaloupe, watermelon and asparagus.

I could complain about not having a garden or I could use the tools I had to create what I wanted.

It is the same concept with LinkedIn.

Requesting or accepting is step one, but there is more to be done to start conversations and build relationships. It begins with a few simple steps:

Say Thank You
When someone accepts or sends you a request, thank them for the connection. It is a simple thing to do and opens the door for the other person to respond.

Be Selective if You Choose
Although some users will not allow you to send them an invitation unless you actually know them, some do not accept connections unless they see a business reason to do so.

Key word there: business reason.

You can address this either in the invitation or in the follow up. In either one, instead of using the template that LinkedIn provides for a connection request, simply put a statement such as, “I noticed that you are connected to Bob Inbox, who I worked with at DCB company…”

Follow Up Without Demanding
You have sent/accepted a connection and sent a thank you, now is time for a conversation, not a request for a coffee meeting.

Send them an inbox message and begin with – again – a business conversation or topic. It could be something about their company or position or that you appreciated a comment that they left on an article. From there you can let them know that you would like to know more about what they do, about their company or their insight on a certain matter.

Do not assume that just because someone connected with you on a business social platform that they are willing to take a couple hours out of their day to meet with you in person. Everyone’s time is valuable.

If someone immediately suggests a coffee time I ask for what purpose. I am trying to eliminate time wasting activities in order to devote my time to my clients. The hairs on the back of my neck immediately go up when I get an instant coffee message. I don’t know you, I don’t know what you want, you want me to give you at least two hours of my time and more than likely you are going to try to sell me on something.

Instant coffee meetings do not equal instant business relationships.

With a few extra minutes, consideration and thought you can start conversations that build relationships. LinkedIn provides a platform, you have to provide the effort. As LinkedIn says: “A healthy professional life starts with healthy relationships.”

How to Ask for – and Receive – LinkedIn Recommendations that Count

pen and paperRecommendations on LinkedIn are wonderful. 

If you are searching for that next job or that next level in your career, they provide instant referrals from coworkers and past associates.  For those building a business, they allow potential customers to read reviews from your current or former clients.

LinkedIn even makes it easy in providing a form complete with script.

Often there is hesitancy in requesting a recommendation because it might feel as though you are bragging in asking for one.  There is no other way I can say this: get over it – there is a reason that that feature is listed on LinkedIn.  It is valuable!

Even if you send out several recommendations, you might find that you are not receiving much of a response, or the responses do not speak to your value. 

And this brings us to the point of today’s blog: how to write recommendations that make it easier for your contacts to complete while highlighting the value you wish to promote about yourself.

Receiving the general, “I’m sending this to ask you for a brief recommendation of my work that I can include on my LinkedIn profile” recommendation request can either strike fear into the recipient’s heart or leave them completely incapable of responding.

From the Receiver’s Side

That statement is too broad.  If you give someone too much room to think or navigate they will normally end up not taking any action at all.  We need rules, parameters, expectations or even just a hint of an idea of what you want.

In giving a recommendation, we do not want to get it wrong.

If you are in transition and looking for recommendations to boost the skills, abilities and qualities that you are selling to prospective employers then please, tell me what you need.

It may feel pushy or odd in helping direct your contact for a recommendation, but it is the best thing you can do.

Tell me what you are looking for and, if I feel qualified to speak to it, I will.

I had a good friend who is job searching send me a general request.  Since this is a good friend I took the time to send him a message back and ask, “What would you like me to speak to in the recommendation?  What would help you in the job search?”

He responded, “Whatever you want.”

We worked together several years ago so I do know him and his work.  However, I do not want to go on about some quality or trait that he did if that is not what he is selling in his current job search.  I do not want it to be irrelevant.  I want it to help him.

Since he has still not defined it for me, it still sits in my inbox.  Poor, lonely request being ignored because I have not been given any direction.

Example of a Recommendation when Job Searching

“I am in the process of searching for my next opportunity.  I am looking to remain in the FGH industry where I can really utilize my abilities in A, B, and C in the role of LMN or QRS.  As you and I had worked together at XYZ Company and you are familiar with my abilities in A, B and C, I am writing to ask if you could write a recommendation for me about these traits.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.  Thank you in advance for your assistance, I appreciate your time in writing a recommendation.”

You accomplish a few key points in the above recommendation request:

  • You let them know you are looking for a job (in case they did not know).
  • You have spelled out what you are looking for so that they now have those key words in mind in case they immediately know of an opportunity that would be right for you – or come across one in the future.
  • You sold your best qualities by outlining them and asking them to comment on them.  This will reinforce your selling statements to prospective employers when they check out your LinkedIn page and there are recommendations boasting about the very things you have introduced.
  • You narrowed down exactly what you would like the person to speak to, therefore making it easier to write a recommendation. Instead of receiving a general response such as “He was a great guy to work with” you have a recommendation that speaks directly to your skills and abilities.
  • You took the time to write a targeted email, not click and send a generic request showing the recipient that you took the time to think about them as and what is directly relevant to them.
  • You showed appreciation for their time, instead of leaving it empty and possibly the assumption that they have the time to do so and will just because you asked.

Example of a Recommendation in Building a Book or Business

“I wanted to take a moment to thank you again for allowing me to provide XYZ service to you.  I truly enjoyed working with you and was glad that you were satisfied with my services.  As you know, I pride myself in ABC, EFG and JKL and am writing to you today to ask if you would mind taking a moment to write a recommendation about my work, your experience or how you feel I delivered on these qualities.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.  Thank you in advance for your assistance, I appreciate your time in writing a recommendation.”

This type of request accomplished the same points as the job seeker: allowing your client to speak directly to your best qualities and the quality of your work within set parameters making it easier for them to respond.

What to Avoid

Do not send a recommendation to someone who is not qualified to speak on your behalf.

I accepted an invitation from someone a while back and within a week I received a recommendation request from them.   The problem was – I do not know them.  I never worked with them.  How could I possibly write a recommendation for someone I do not know?

From my personal perspective, I look at it this way: if I write a recommendation I am putting my name on it, it represents me.  I lose credibility if I recommend someone that I know nothing about their skills, abilities or value.

I am not going to risk my reputation and trust of my clients, friends or followers by putting my name to something that I personally do not know.  Forget it.  If you want me to bestow praise, then you have to earn it.

Do not ask for what you do not deserve.

Take a few extra minutes to craft a message that will help guide your contacts in writing a recommendation for you.  This is your reputation – it deserves that at the very least.

Give and Take

Lastly, return the favor.  If this person worked with you and is able to talk about your skills and ability, odds are you can do the same for them. 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

http://www.CareerPolish.com

A tip on Asking for Recommendations on LinkedIn to Take the Pain Away

linkedinIf you are a LinkedIn user, I am sure that you have heard all the benefits about asking for recommendations to include on your page.

 

Instant testimonials to how wonderful you are – sure, who wouldn’t want that?

 

A lot more people that you would think.

 

Some people are embarrassed to ask for them or think that they would look like they are bragging in asking for them.

 

Get over it – there is a reason that that feature is listed on LinkedIn.

 

Because it is valuable!

 

Before you send out a boatload of requests to your contacts for recommendations, let me give you a quick tip on how to make it painless for your contacts, which will improve the chance of getting recommendations.

 

Not just recommendations – recommendations that count!

 

Receiving the general, “I’m sending this to ask you for a brief recommendation of my work that I can include on my LinkedIn profile” recommendation request can either strike fear into the recipient’s heart or leave them completely incapable of responding.

 

That statement is too broad.  If you give someone too much room to think or navigate they will normally end up not taking any action at all.  We need rules, parameters, expectations or even just a hint of an idea of what you want.

 

As a recommender – we don’t want to get it wrong.

 

If you are in transition and looking for recommendations to boost the skills, abilities and qualities that you are selling to prospective employers then please, tell me what you need.

 

It may feel pushy or odd in helping directing your contact for a recommendation, but it is the best thing you can do.

 

Tell me what you are looking for and, if I feel qualified to speak to it, I will.

 

I had a good friend who is job searching send me a general request.  Since this is a good friend I took the time to send him a message and ask, “What would you like me to speak to in the recommendation?  What would help you in the job search?”

 

He responded, “Whatever you want.”

 

We worked together several years ago so I do know him and his work.  But, I don’t want to go on about some quality or trait that he did if that is not what he is selling in his current job search.  I do not want it to be irrelevant.  I want it to help him.

 

Since he has still not defined it for me, it still sits in my inbox.  Poor, lonely request being ignored because I have not been given any direction.

 

If you are job searching, change the standard email to read something along the lines of:

 

“I am not sure if you are aware but I am in the process of searching for my next opportunity.  I am looking to remain in the FGH industry where I can really utilize my abilities in A, B, and C in the role of LMN or QRS.  As you and I had worked together at XYZ company and are familiar with my abilities in A, B and C, I am writing to ask if you could write a recommendation for me about these traits.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.  Thank you in advance for your assistance, I appreciate your time in writing a recommendation.”

 

You accomplish a few key points in the above recommendation request:

  1. You      let them know you are looking for a job (in case they did not know).
  2. You      have spelled out what you are looking for so that they now have those key      words in mind in case they immediately know of an opportunity that would      be right for you – or come across one in the future.
  3. Sold      your best qualities by outlining them and asking them to comment on      them.  This will reinforce your      selling statements to prospective employers when they check out your      LinkedIn page and there are recommendations boasting about the very things      you have introduced.
  4. Narrowed      down exactly what you would like the person to speak to, therefore making      it easier to write a recommendation.       Instead of receiving a general response such as “He was a great guy      to work with” you have a recommendation that speaks directly to your      skills and abilities.
  5. You      took the time to write a targeted email, not click and send a generic      request.  You are showing the recipient      that you took time in thinking about them as a recommender and what is      relevant to them directly.
  6. You      show appreciation for their time, instead of leaving it empty and possibly      the assumption that they have the time to do so and will just because you      asked.

 

If you are in business and looking to expand and reaching out to past clients, change the standard email to read something along the lines of:

 

“I wanted to take a moment to thank you again for allowing me to provide XYZ service to you.  I truly enjoyed working with you and was glad that you were satisfied with my services.  As you know, I pride myself in ABC, EFG and JKL and am writing to you today to ask if you would mind taking a moment to write a recommendation about my work, your experience or how you feel I delivered on these qualities.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.  Thank you in advance for your assistance, I appreciate your time in writing a recommendation.”

 

This type of request accomplished the same points as the job seeker: allowing your client to speak directly to your best qualities and the quality of your work within set parameters making it easier for them to respond.

 

One last note: do not send a recommendation to someone who is not qualified to speak on your behalf.

 

I accepted an invitation from someone a while back and within a week I received a recommendation request from them.   The problem was – I didn’t know them.  I never worked with them.  How could I possibly write a recommendation for someone I don’t know?

 

From my personal perspective, I look at it this way: if I write a recommendation I am putting my name on it, it represents me.  I loose credibility if I recommend someone that I do not know or, quite frankly, is not good in business.

 

I am not going to risk my reputation and trust of my clients, friends or followers by putting my name to something that I personally do not know.  Forget it.  If you want me to bestow praise, then you have to earn it.

 

Don’t ask for what you do not deserve.

 

Take a few extra minutes to craft a message that will help guide your contacts in writing a recommendation for you.  This is your reputation – it deserves that at the very least.

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com