This story first appeared on The Muse, a Web destination with exciting job opportunities and expert career advice. 

Call me old-fashioned, but I like to know the people who are in my network. And if we've never met, I'd like to know there's some reason why we're getting in touch.

I don't see the purpose in a sprawling list of LinkedIn contacts unless I feel like I could actually ping one of those people with a career question, meet up if I was in his or her city, or have some sense of the value we add to each other's networks.

It's not that I'm against connecting with new people, it's just that the generic note that throws me every time.

And that's because I'm always left with three questions:

  • Who are you?
  • How did you find me?
  • Why do you want to connect?

These answer-less questions usually lead to an invite sitting around in my inbox for a while before, inevitably, being deleted.

However, those questions right there create a simple three-line formula that'll make strangers much more likely to accept your invitation.

Let's do a comparison.

The Generic Invite

Hi Sara,

I'd like to connect with you on LinkedIn.

[Name]

The Personalized Note

For people you admire:

Hi Sara,

My name is Jane Rogers, and I work in accounting in NYC. I just read the article you wrote for The Muse on making networking less fake and horrible, which is how I've always felt about it! I'd like to connect on LinkedIn so I can stay posted on your other work.

Sincerely,
Jane

For people in your desired field:

Hi Sara,

I'm reaching out because you came up in my "See anyone you know?" feed. I saw we both worked at [company] several years apart, and I'm looking to transition back into that industry. I'd love to ask you a few questions about how things have changed in our field.

Best,
John Smith

For people in your alumni network:

Hi Sara,

I see we both went to F&M (Go Dips!). I am a graduating senior interested in editorial and would love to connect with you because you write for some of my favorite websites.

Thanks so much,
Jill Brown

Those few sentences shouldn't take you that long to create, and they show you're willing to put in the time and effort to make a proper introduction, which always goes a long way in networking. Plus, it takes the guesswork out of it for me--so I'm much more likely to accept your request.

But let me play devil's advocate here for a moment: But Sara, what if someone simply admires you and wants to follow your career?

One, I'm flattered. Truly. Two, if someone wants to follow me just for the sake of following me, I suggest Twitter or my website or Instagram or the very LinkedIn feature that allows you to follow people's posts without adding them.

I want to use LinkedIn to stay connected with the people in my network, read their thoughts, and see when they start a new job or celebrate a work anniversary. I don't want my feed to be full of strangers, a.k.a., people I don't feel comfortable reaching out to. Because after all, isn't that the point of LinkedIn? To keep track of people who can help you in your career and vice versa.

So take the extra five minutes and send a note, you'll have a much better chance of connecting with strangers.

None of these templates work for you? Here are 10 more to try. Think I'm way off base and generic LinkedIn invites are A-OK? Tweet me and tell me why!

Published on: Dec 8, 2015