Act to connect: successfully expand your network on LinkedIn

Often, during conversations with students and other job seekers, I sense some hesitation to connect to interesting, but unknown, people on LinkedIn. I hear arguments like: “This person is probably busy enough” and “He/she surely doesn’t enjoy being bothered by someone who she/he doesn’t know”. But what if…

… you would have the chance to interact with them? Wouldn’t a chat with this person be a great opportunity to get insight to the industry or company they are working for? To find out if the company or the job suits you? Or maybe it even reveals opportunities for a job or an internship that you would not have found online. Let’s turn it around – for example: you receive a message from a student. You have a shared background and she/he is interested to connect. Are you available for a 15-minutes chat? It also depends on the WAY this person approaches you to get your attention. Some tips WHY people accept an invitation and how you can convince them to have a short conversation - even if you have never met before.

1. A shared connection

Search by keywords. Look for a second-degree connection and who you both know. Ask the shared contact if you can mention his/her name in the invitation. This will give you an easy introduction, which increases your chances of success. Having something in common is the #1 reason people tie up.

2. A shared interest

Alternatively, you can look for a mutual interest. For example: – Check out the Alumni section of the University of St.Gallen and search for keywords or a company name. Alumni are very likely to respond because you have a common background. – Follow people that share interesting content and react on the article they posted. – Join a group. Once you are in, you can send messages (without a premium account) to all the group members. – Ask in your invitation if they have time for a (virtual) coffee to exchange about above topics.

3. You have something to give

Look for content (articles, posts, connections) that the person you would like to talk to, might be interested in. For example, you recently read an article in a course. This person may be too busy to read all features and you’re up to date knowledge may be interesting to them.

Here are some examples

1. When connecting to a second line connection:
Hi John, through (shared connection) I heard about the interesting work you do for XYZ in project management. I am in my last year of my Master’s degree program at HSG and I am writing my thesis about agile methods in project management. Would you be open for a (virtual) coffee and chat about the recent developments in project management? Kind regards, …

2. Connecting to a LinkedIn member for a shared interest:
Hi Tamara, I came across your profile and realized we share the background at HSG! Currently I am learning about what it takes to start working in HR, specifically as a Change Manager. It would be great to hear more about your experiences. Do you have time for a 15-minute video chat, next week Tuesday or Thursday? Thank you in advance, best regards, … And to be safe, you could add an escape line for the receiver, like: `If my invitation to connect is inappropriate, then please let me know and I will not contact you again`.

4. Be genuinely interested

People in general like to get recognized, talk about themselves and the things they do. Ask specific questions. Find a topic this person (or company) knows a lot about and is also of specific interest to you. For example, how has your work changed over the last months? This shows you are genuinely interested. This might be contagious.

5. Ask for advice

People like to help. It makes them feel good. They are flattered because you need their advice. Do not ask for jobs. Not even in the conversation. If you like what you hear about the job or the company, you could ask: "What is your advice on how to proceed, if I would like to work at…?"

6. There may be a need for an employee or intern

Last but not least, the person you are writing to could actually be looking for an employee or intern for the company. Although you should not ask directly, you use the question "What do you advice me to do, if I would like to work at... " and they will mention it, if they have anything available. Now, let’s do it! HOW can you write an appealing invitation message? For inspiration, see the two examples in the white circle above.


Want to know more about the do's and don'ts of a LinkedIn profile? Come to our workshop "Career Input: Social Media and LinkedIn". Registration on

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