“I sent her a message about my job search on LinkedIn but I haven’t heard back.”  Sound familiar?

You probably know that when you’re using LinkedIn for your job search, you’re sitting on a goldmine of potential job leads…IF you use it strategically.  If, on the other hand, you’re in a moment of desperation about your search and quickly fire off an unclear request for help, you risk losing your contact’s goodwill because they fear you might take up too much of their time.

“Hi Bob, hope you are well.  I’m starting to look for my next opportunity and I want to talk to you about my job search.  I was hoping we could meet for coffee over the next few weeks. Let me know what works for you.”

That request is totally fine if you and Bob were side by side in the trenches and he knows you very well, and if he’s in your “inner circle” of connections.  If you got that message from a dear friend, you’d respond very quickly.

But- what if you get that same message from a friend-of-a-friend, or someone you only worked with briefly?  You’d probably think “wow, he sounds like he needs a lot of help; I’m swamped with this project right now but maybe when things settle down I’ll reach out.”

Here’s why it pays off to think before you write:  before marketers write something to persuade you to take action, they figure out WHAT ACTION they want you to take.  They call that the “call to action” – do they want you to buy something?  Download something so they can market to you later?  Refer a customer?  Etc.

Along similar lines, in a job search, you’re asking your LinkedIn connections to take some time out of their busy lives to help you in some way.

Do this one thing first:  Instead of sending a vague request, categorize your contacts into how they can best help you, in 15-30 minutes or less (a “targeted ask”):

  • Broad Network Connections: This ask is best for someone who has a broad network.  Your ask: Will you connect me to people in these (very specific) sectors, roles or companies?
  • Industry Insight:  This ask is best if the person has previously demonstrated (to you or a mutual connection) that they like mentoring and advising people.  Your ask:  Given my skills and where I have decided I would like to transition, am I looking in the right place?  Are there organizations or opportunity areas that might make sense for me to consider?
  • Company-Specific Connection:  This ask is for the times when you have a target company in mind and you don’t have your own connection internally.  Your ask:  Would you be open to connecting me to (name) within the organization?
  • Directional Feedback:  This ask is best for people who’ve seen you in action, either as your manager, a peer, or a valued colleague; they’re candid and they have a good sense of the industry you’re targeting.  Your ask:  Does my chosen career direction seem like it would be a good fit, given your knowledge of me?  Or, if you haven’t chosen a career yet, you can ask more broadly:  Would you mind sharing your perception of my core strengths and abilities and where you think I could add the most value?
  • Feedback on Your Job Search Materials:  This ask is great for someone in recruiting, HR, or who’s hired a lot of people and who is willing to give you resume and LinkedIn feedback.  Your ask:  I just updated my resume, would you be open to taking a quick look at it and giving me your high-level feedback, given my direction?
  • Moral Support:  This ask is best for a very close former colleague, a job search buddy, or someone you won’t need to ask for an introduction. Your ask: I am feeling stuck this week; I value your insight and wisdom; can I debrief with you what I’ve been up to?  You always have a way of helping me get re-centered.
  • References: This ask is for your 5-7 connections (managers, peers, senior leaders) who’d be open to being a reference for you.  Your ask:  If I am in the final stages of a job interview, and I prepare you in advance for the particular role, would you be open to being a reference for me?
  • Organizational Insight:  This ask is for the times that you have a target organization, and apart from www.glassdoor.com you don’t have a sense of the work culture.  Your ask:  Would you mind sharing any insight about what it’s like to work at (x), and also the best way to make it through the screening process there?

Of course, there may be a person or two (but definitely not 5 or 10) who’d be willing to help you with several of these at the same time.  Typically, however, you’ll get the fastest and best response if you limit what you’re asking for at any one time.

When you’re deciding which “ask” is best for each connection, it pays to do some research ahead of time within their own LinkedIn connections, so you can be prepared when you speak to them.

(By the way, it also helps if you have templates saved somewhere for each of these “asks” so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you reach out).