How do you handle a LinkedIn connection request when it has been a very long time since you last spoke with your connection? Jim Bob Howard has given us a brief example:
Sam: Can you introduce me to John Smith? I think he’d be a great connection for me.
Me: I haven’t talked to John since we worked together for Acme, seven years ago. I’m not even sure where he is these days. Let me see if can reconnect with him first, then feel out if I can make that introduction for you.
When you’ve been a professional for more than a decade (or a few, ahem), you tend to lose touch with a ton of great people as the years go by. Then someone comes along and notices one of your LinkedIn connections and asks for an introduction. When that happens to me, I believe God is telling me it’s time to touch base with an old colleague.
If possible, a face-to-face meeting is my go-to. When the disconnect is formed by miles as well as years, reconnecting via a LinkedIn message is another option. It doesn’t take much to type something quickly, but if it has been some time (and I have multiple people with whom I want to reconnect), it’s good to have some templates to fill-in-the-blank.
I was recently having coffee with a colleague in the Widget Insurance business and I thought the two of you should meet. Since it’s been a while since we connected, I wanted to catch up first, to make sure it would be a good fit for you. Do you have time for a quick phone call this week to reconnect?
Most people will welcome an introduction like that and give you a chance to catch up.
But it’s not necessary to wait until a name comes up in conversation. LinkedIn gives you several other impetuses for re-connecting: birthdays, work anniversaries, new positions, new posts, appearances in the news. If you set aside 15-30 minutes a day to reach out on those first two, you’ll touch everyone in your connections list at least twice a year.
Birthdays are the perfect time to include a note about how thankful you are for having that person in your life. It’s also a great time to connect on personal points: family, hobbies, milestones.
Take time on work anniversaries to review the work experience of your colleagues. Read the recommendations they’ve received, look at the groups they’re a part of, note promotions or increased areas of responsibility, or simply congratulate them for their longevity and value as a vital asset to the company.
Pre-write these and fill in the blank, but be sure to tweak the message and format at least once a year (I recommend doing it once a quarter), or you’ll send them the same form letter the next year and it will be obvious you were working from a template.
Remember, the template or swipe file is meant to be a framework for staying connected… not an impersonal glad-handing just for growing your influence. If it’s not heartfelt and fueled by genuine interest, you’d best not send it.