How to expand your professional network with a great direct message was originally published on College Recruiter.
Networking has evolved rapidly in the past few years. Whether you’re a college student or you’ve been in the workforce for years, you’ve seen and experienced the drastic shift in popularity from in-person networking to virtual networking.
Even further, we’ve seen the traditional forms of virtual outreach such as email wane in favor of direct messages, or “DMs.” In the midst of these transitions, it’s so important for people of all ages to adapt with the times and master modern networking strategies.
If you’ve ever found yourself wanting to reach out to a recruiter or fellow professional on LinkedIn but haven’t quite known where to begin, you’re in luck! This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to send a DM that’ll be sure to grab attention and entice a response.
Professional vs. Social Platforms
Sites like LinkedIn lie in a unique zone between social media and professional advancement, which makes it difficult to know exactly how to approach fellow professionals.
When in doubt, it’s a good rule of thumb to lean on the professional side when it comes to tone and phrasing. Remember, it’s normal to follow your professors and employers on this site – this isn’t exactly the norm on other social media platforms.
This doesn’t mean that you have to be cold and robotic when networking using LinkedIn DMs – you can absolutely be friendly and show some personality. You just want to be a little more cautious, avoiding colloquial lingo and anything that could be misconstrued as disrespectful.
Before Reaching Out
You may be tempted to jump in and cold message a recruiter right after finding the perfect job opening. However, there are a few steps you’ll want to take before you even start writing:
- Revisit your own profile. Is your profile up-to-date with your current experience? Does it accurately reflect your resume? If not, consider polishing it up. This will likely be the first impression that your recipient gets of you – make it a great one!
- Check out their profile. It’s never a bad idea to do some digging into your recipient’s experience so that you can effectively connect with them and avoid coming across as tone-deaf. Get an idea of their experience in their industry, make note of their accomplishments and figure out some areas of mutual interest.
- Have an intention. Walk into your first direct message knowing exactly what you want to get out of it. Do you want to make an impression on a recruiter? Are you seeking a mentor? Do you want to pitch an idea? Being sure of your intention will help you keep the content of your message relevant.
Writing Your Message
After doing a little preparation, you should feel a bit more comfortable sending that first outreach message. As you start writing, remember to take the following tips into account.
- Build a relationship. If you don’t say something personalized to your recipient in the first couple lines of your message, there’s a much higher chance that it’ll get tossed before it’s even read. Did you attend the same training as them? Did you read something that they’ve written? Commenting on these things can boost your credibility and help you make a lasting impression.
- Keep it short. Assume that your recipient is busy. They don’t have much time to check their messages so the quicker that you get to your point, the better. Aim for 3-4 sentences in that first message. If they respond positively, you can increase the length of your following messages a bit – just remember to keep everything relevant and concise.
- Look it over. Even if you trust your writing skills, you’ll want to proof-read your message for any spelling errors, choppy sentences, overly casual language and any sense of pushiness. Remember, you’re in a place to make professional requests – not demands.
Writing a reply-worthy DM might take some fine-tuning, so be patient with yourself as you practice. Take every rejection as a lesson and remember that effective networking is a practice that even experienced professionals are continuing to learn.
Interested in some additional guidance as you get started? Check out Tommy John’s visual below for some attention-grabbing DM templates.
–Luke Strauss is a Junior Content Marketing Specialist at Siege Media. He primarily covers topics related to wellness and career development. When he’s not writing he enjoys exploring, producing music and spending time with his friends and family.