A Hello Can Change Your Life!

How can students unlock opportunities by mastering the art of networking professionally on Linkedin?

The best breaks in life come through relationships. DMs on social media platforms – and Linkedin, in particular – offer students a powerful way of initiating one. 

You can send a DM (Direct Message) on social media to (A) An existing connection, or (B) As a covering note when sending a new connection invite. At a time when cold calls and emailers are only inviting irritation from recipients, mastering the magic of one-on-one messaging can be our best bet for landing that dream breakthrough.

Connecting with a 875 million strong professional universe spread across 200 countries and regions worldwide.

Linkedin is easily the planet’s largest social media hub for professionals. Per stats, 8 people are hired on the platform every minute, and 101 job applications get submitted every second. That’s a goldmine of possibilities if one wants to dive deeper into a subject matter, gain insights on latest trends, discover opportunities that may not be advertised on public media or build rewarding, lifelong bridges with peers, professors, mentors, thought leaders and even admissions officers to colleges one is applying to. No wonder students and new grads represent Linkedin’s fastest growing audience.

Not all social media is built equal. Facebook has friends, Linkedin has connections. To convert a stranger into a connection on social media, or in other words to approach someone new on Linkedin, one has to plan the approach path strategically

On an average day, thanks to the din of ‘noise pollution’, social media platforms can be a deafening place to be in. That’s also an opportunity for students. Receiving a  thoughtfully articulated and professionally formulated message – be it for a new connection or to someone you are already connected to – is rare on social media. Which means if you send out one, it will immediately set you apart from the crowd.

Here’s The Official Step By Step Guide For Sending Messages On A Social Media Platform Like Linkedin

People on social media, and particularly Linkedin, tend to guard their inner circle (‘connection club’) fiercely because (A) It represents who they are and so affects their image and reputation, (B) It can potentially become a source of distraction if they let every Tom, Dick and Harry through the gate (connections have direct messaging rights which non-connections don’t – the latter can take a paid premium subscription to do that).

Before you begin, do the necessary research to ensure the person has the right background and mindset to consider your DM with an open mind. Their tone of voice and behaviour on posts and comments on the platform will provide clues.

Is there a mutual contact who can introduce you? The acquaintance may be particularly useful if you are reaching out to explore work opportunities. A LinkedIn study discovered that more than 70% of professionals get hired where they know someone in the company.

This is where social media can make a real difference. It helps to start with a professionally maintained Linkedin profile (which, in the current age, can also double up as a resume). You will have a headstart if you are already an active Linkedin-er, creating and interacting on the platform regularly.

The time has finally come to knock on the door. Sliding into someone’s DM box – especially that of a big shot – may feel intimidating. To get the most out of the opportunity, be mindful of a few ‘tested’ rules that’s worked for others, and may work for you. 


Phase 1

  1. If it’s a new connection invite, craft an ‘efficient’ subject line. Don’t try to impress – keep it simple and short. 82% of marketers keep their subject lines slimmer than 60 characters – why not make that slice of market wisdom work for you? While you’re at it, try to evoke curiosity – it will make them want to read more. 
  2. You get a 300 character window to add a note when sending your connection invite on a social media hub like Linkedin. This is your chance to establish your personal brand and make a point. You can send a connection invite without a note too – but that’s an opportunity lost. 
  3. Linkedin DM’s are a bit like chat. Keep messages brief. Being respectful of people’s time is good karma – it will come back to benefit you. Linkedin data says three words or less raises the chances of a response by 14%. Three may be too few (let’s leave that to seasoned copywriters), but you get the idea. 
  4. Personalize whenever possible. Try to use their first name, unless culture and professional protocol prevents it. 
  5. Always introduce yourself clearly and concisely when networking on social media. Yes, they can click on your name and check your profile page, but for now, help them save the effort. Storify your intro with a little intrigue. “I’m trying to connect AI and climate” is better than “I am pursuing my Ph.D thesis.”


Phase 2

  1. Don’t transmit confused vibes on social media – you need to take away any ambiguity from your communication to save them the mental effort or avoid upsetting their mood. Establish intent clearly and be to-the-point to create the right environment for a confident and thoughtful response. 
  2. Whatever you do, don’t push your agenda aggressively. There’s no greater turn-off than a sales pitch on a social network, particularly if it immediately follows a connection invite. 
  3. It’s a good idea on social media to set the stage with a mild opener. Avoid hollow sentiments and messages that are lazy or unprofessional like “I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn” or “Can you help me?” Be more specific. Did you guys attend the same event or study at the same college? Do you have a similar Ph.D thesis or follow the same universities and organizations on Linkedin? Response rates go up by 10% when folks share common experiences (and managers tend to hire people who remind them of themselves), so if the two of you have common ground, use it now to create context and bridge the gap. 
  4. Social media, and especially Linkedin, is a universe where you get to the point fast. What is the big goal behind your connection invite or DM? The best answer is always the honest one. Here are some variants for you to consider. 
  5. Finally, add a word of praise if you can blend it in subtly. Remember, everyone’s favourite topic is themselves. If you have attended a webinar, been inspired by a speech, or read an article that’s written by the person – compliment them curtly.


Social Media search

How Do Actual Social Media DM’s Look Like?

Well, here are some random samples:

  • “I wanted some advice and you’re the right person.”
  • “I’m new to this field, and have great respect for the work you have done – could I ask you a few questions?”
  • “Your talk the other day brought up an intriguing new angle – would you be open to clarifying it a bit for me?”
  • “I have always been fascinated by your work and was wondering if you might be open to appearing as a guest on our college podcast.”
  • “I’m looking at an internship opportunity at your organization and looking at an introduction.”
  • “I’m writing a speech related to your subject matter – it would mean a lot if you gave it a glance and could let me know your opinion of it.”
  • “I am writing an article on <TOPIC> – would you be fine to add a quote that will lift its value significantly.”
  • “I know you’re the expert in <DOMAIN / DISCIPLINE> and I’ve been meaning to clarify a point.”
  • “I’d love to get your take / review  on my cover letter if your schedule allows it.”
  • “I’ve learnt a lot by following your blogs. I could really do with guidance from a pro like you and was wondering if you offer in-person mentoring?”
  • “We are peers professionally, and I have a feeling we might benefit from intellectual exchanges from time to time.”


NOTE : Always ensure your request is in line or in level with the current level of relationship. Don’t demand too much at the outset. This is, after all, a person you probably don’t know well enough to call, and are unlikely to bump into during social occasions.


Bonus Tips

Building relationships and goodwill – be it on a leading social media destination like Linkedin or elsewhere – has a simple rule of thumb: You must give more than you receive. As you approach the concluding stages of your interaction, confirm your willingness to do the necessary work and follow through. Find out, too, if there’s any way you can help. If the person is too senior for you to offer anything of professional value, offer your time and knowledge  : Volunteer to do some research or admin work that’s in line with your program or speciality. Follow their posts and see if you can solve a current pain point. They will appreciate both the involvement and the gesture.

What about sharing links to your works, website or recommendations on a professional social media platform like Linkedin? This can be a good idea to share online assets and social proof if they are relevant. Links inside the Linkedin message box can blow up into a large, unwieldy looking thumbnail and create visual distraction – try to bundle / zip and share them together at the end (or in a separate message, or a follow-up email) to prevent interrupting the conversation.

Have a strong value proposition that you feel deserves attention? Consider creating a PPT or slide deck. This will, in addition, make you look professional.

How many DM’s can you send out in a day on Linkedin? Apparently there’s no official limit on the number of messages you can send on Linkedin, but some experts put the figure at 50 to 70 to avoid being labelled spammer by the platform’s algorithms. Those with Premium and Recruiter subscriptions may send more.

Doing your Linkedin DM’s right can add a ton of value to your academic and campus journey. And help you network like a pro… even before you have turned professional.