How to Connect Professionally on LinkedIn

By Nigel Cliffe

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All too many times when I receive an invitation to connect with someone I have not met I receive this request:

“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”

My first reaction is – err, no, not really – but without exception, I always take a second look…

I might often go on to connect with such a request, but not always. Here’s why:

I’m walking down the street and some random person stops me to ask for my contact details and forces their business card into my folded arms. They don’t even start with a ‘hello’. I look them up and down and quickly walk on…

How rude, I think. What the heck…

Another time I walk down the street and someone looks me warmly in the eyes and says “Nigel, how nice to see you, I was hoping I’d bump into you today as I’ve got something that I think may really interest you. By the way, loved that article you wrote on LinkedIn recently…”

I stop to listen and I’m genuinely pleased to be recognised

Why is it then that when online our habits change? Is it the greyness of the keyboard that goads us into being inhuman? Is it a ploy to simply add meaningless connections to improve my connection numbers? Or is it just darn laziness?

Whichever it might be – it is simply not good enough

I consider my upbringing for a moment – always taught to say my pleases and thank-you’s and palm off these poor approaches as, well, uneducated.

Ah, there’s a thought, what if people don’t know what to do?

Now you have no excuse – here is how to connect on LinkedIn – the proper way

First let me describe what NOT to do: NEVER use LinkedIn’s own invitation, wherever and whenever it occurs, to connect with someone on LinkedIn. This page in particular:

See who you already know on LinkedIn

As soon as you do the horse will have bolted – an annoying invitation will have been sent to your whole address book (via Google, Outlook, etc) irritating hundreds, if not thousands of people, all at once. Your manners out of the window at the click of an icon. To make matters even worse, you may already be connected to them on LinkedIn with another email address. Unfortunately the LinkedIn algorithm is not clever enough to know that, so your best friend just thinks you are a jerk!

No, the CORRECT way to connect is to view the person’s profile page and make the connection from there…

Simply click the blue ‘Connect’ button and be presented with a dropdown menu of ways in which you might already be connected to someone – a colleague, a friend, a classmate etc. Being in a Group together is a very valuable option here.

Here is my best tip:

If you have no connection with the person that you wish to connect with, use the ‘We have done business together’ option. The person you are trying to reach out to doesn’t get to know you have used that option and so long as you personalise the reason you wish to connect they are very likely to accept an honest and valid reason to connect. So instead of:

“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”

Try something like:

“Hi [name], I really like what you share around LinkedIn and would love to add you to my network to share more of the same. If you have a few moments lets grab a virtual coffee together – when might you be free for a few minutes?

Best regards,


This might very well lead to a face to face meeting which should be your objective in the first place!

The reason is this. Why do you wish to connect with someone at all if there is no purpose in the connection? No reason to wish to speak to them? LinkedIn is a ‘Business to Business’ social media platform, not a numbers game. Your connections are and should be treated like a valuable asset. Linking those you know at the same gaming table as those you don’t simply undermines the quality of your ‘real’ connections. Why would you want to do that?

So, next time you are tempted to take the shortcut – think twice. Do the right thing.

Lastly, why do I sometimes go on to connect with people who don’t personalise their invitation? Usually because I’ve taken the trouble to reply to their request and ask why they might like to connect with me! When I do this, typically two things happen:

  1. i) They never reply! (In which case I’m glad I didn’t accept their request – what was the point??)
  2. ii) They reply with a long, slightly embarrassed reply back, explaining in full why they might like to connect with me. And most often I accept and a new relationship begins.

Never accept a connection request just because it has been sent to you.

Off you go now, you have no excuse to ever be rude again!

Please note, this article is entirely my own opinion and often I get into debate with folks as to why building a large network does have some advantages. I can ‘sometimes’ see their point, but that strategy is not for me!

If you’d like more useful tips and advice about how to effectively utilise LinkedIn, then allow us to help you with our UK LinkedIn coaching. Our selection of LinkedIn training courses online, in-house or through our public training could shape you into a new and improved LinkedIn user!

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