Messaging via LinkedIn: Be a Pal, Not a PITA!

Messaging via LinkedIn: Be a Pal, Not a PITA!Have you ever wanted to send a message to a LinkedIn member you don’t know?

The ways to do this – and there are several – aren’t immediately obvious. That may be a good thing, perhaps limiting how often we hear from Strangers with Potentially Annoying Messages (SPAM).

(No, that’s not *really* the origin of the word “spam.”)

Who is this LinkedIn member you don’t know, but want to know? If you’re looking for a new job, he may be someone who is highly knowledgeable about your field and/or the companies in it. If you’re looking for new clients/customers, he may be a prospect, or someone with whom you could have a mutual referral relationship.

Rather than call this person your “target” – because we don’t want to be aggressive here – I’m going to call him your Prospective Professional Acquaintance through LinkedIn (PPAL).

Be a pal, not a PITA (Pain In The Anatomy). Be courteous. Make it clear what you have in common  and why they might find it interesting to be in contact with you.

Here are four methods.

Message the person through a group.

If your PPAL belongs to any groups you belong to you can message them through that group unless they have switched this capability off in their Settings. If you’re not a member of the group, why not join? You can always leave the group later if it doesn’t suit you.

Here’s how to message a fellow group member:

  • Click Interests at the top of your home page and select Groups.
  • Click the group’s name.
  • Click the Members tab.
  • Use the group’s Search box to find the person’s name in the list.
  • Click the Send Message link.
  • Write your message and click Send Message.

Send an InMail.

Little-known fact: You don’t need to upgrade your membership to send an InMail! You can simply send a single InMail message for $10.

  • Go to Privacy and Settings (by clicking your little thumbnail photo in the upper right corner of the screen).
  • In the “Inmails” box (top row, near center), click Purchase.

Invite her to join your network.

Go to the PPAL’s profile and click Connect. You can include a very brief message in your invitation. Of course, if she accepts, you can then message her freely.

In the form that opens next, you’ll be asked how you know her. The options are:



We’ve done business together




I don’t know (name)

(The “Groups” option will not appear if you have no groups in common with her.)

Remember: Your PPAL is not your Friend (at least, not yet)! If you click “Friend” and you’re actually a stranger, this is likely to annoy her. If she rejects your request by clicking “I don’t know this person,” you may be restricted by LinkedIn, which is not a pleasant experience.

Ask to be introduced.

This method involves asking someone for a favor. Use your judgment in determining whether it’s appropriate.

Do you see a “2nd” or “3rd” icon near the target person’s name? (Look for it in the upper right corner of the “snapshot” portion of the person’s profile, which is the white box where their name and photo appears.) If so, you can proceed as follows.

  • Click the drop-down arrow next to the Send InMail button in the snapshot.
  • Select Get Introduced.
  • Follow the instructions. Read carefully, for example where it states “may get forwarded to (name of PPAL).” You are potentially writing to both people at once here!

A note about requesting introductions through a third-degree connection – somebody who knows somebody else, who in turn knows your PPAL: Obviously you have less chance of success here, and a not-insignificant chance of being perceived as a PITA. Use this feature with great care – or not at all!

For screenshots related to some of the above techniques, here’s a useful post on the Tech for Luddites blog.

Networking Is *Not* Bothering Your Friends

Networking is NOT "Bothering Your Friends"I’m going to tell you a secret. I dislike reading job search books.

Nevertheless, I’m enjoying Highly Effective Networking: Meet the Right People and Get a Great Job by Orville Pierson, and not just because it’s well written and has an encouraging tone.

This book does a great job of dispelling the myths that making your networking a loss less enjoyable and effective than it could be – or stopping you from even doing it.

In job search networking, the one most important thing is to make everyone you talk to comfortable. Why? If they’re not comfortable, nothing will happen … If they’re not comfortable, you’re not comfortable.

Isn’t that awesome? It seems there’s actually a way networking can be comfortable.

Another big stumbling block for many of us is that we don’t want to bother people. We don’t want to impose.

Here’s what Pierson says to that:

“Don’t forget to look at it from the other person’s point of view. If you were a friend of mine and had something important happening – like a job search, maybe – and you didn’t include me, I’d wonder if we were really friends. If I heard from others about it, rather than from you, I might actually be offended.

“Now … it’s also true that you need to help your friends help. They probably don’t know much about a highly effective job search. Most people don’t. Everyone thinks of ‘job openings’ or ‘who’s hiring.’ Then they feel helpless and unable to assist you because they don’t know much in either of those categories. When they’re uncomfortable, the discussion becomes awkward.

“Don’t let that happen. … Help them help you.”

How do you learn to “help them help you”? Read the book. Or, for a quicker introduction right now, read my article “Networking with a Marketing Plan.” 

I’ve been coaching my clients in networking approaches very similar to those of Pierson and LHH. I actually worked for LHH for a year in 2008, right after I was laid off from my last corporate job at the beginning of the Great Recession. I never met Orville, but I taught job-search classes that he probably designed, and I saw how well it worked for those clients.

As one of my own private clients wrote more recently,

Thea’s approach put my contacts and me at ease.

If you’d like customized, one-on-one assistance in setting up networking habits and activities that will help you get a great job sooner, I’m here to help.

And you don’t have to “bother” anybody!