The Cold Reach Out
I posted on the subject of the bot written cold reach out a few months ago after receiving a number of them on LinkedIn (pre-COVID), and my position on the subject hasn't changed:
LinkedIn is a wonderful resource for staying in touch with professional contacts, and yes, network for new jobs. In the 21st century, connecting online is the way we enter the world. In 2020, it's our only option for most things in life. What's more, it works: I recently hired someone who reached to me over LinkedIn. After their initial message about a common thread (we both went to the same school) they asked to set up time to chat about themselves and opportunities at TikTok. We spoke, and while at the time there were no open roles that fit, they asked that I keep them in mind if anything came up. After a months a role did open up and I reached out to them, remembering our conversation. They passed their interviews and started on my team a few weeks ago. This was a case where a well thought out approach based on a fairly flimsy premise lead to a full-time role.
And that's the point: It's not only about reaching out, it's about how you reach out: On honest conversation based on an original outreach that wasn't written by a LinkedIn bot, will always lead to better results.
Unintentionally, messages that show they were written by the linkedIn bot, or one's that cut straight to asking me for a reference or an opportunity on my team will always head straight to my archive.
I can't speak for anyone else, but I believe these points are the what you should keep in mind when you're attempting to successfully approach someone for career advice/help/referral that you've never spoken to before:
Think about the approach and be original. While I try to get back to everyone who writes me (trying to sell me a service does not count as writing me), I'm much more likely to respond to someone who's message stands out.
Don't let a bot do your writing. Whoever you are writing probably get's a lot of outreach and can tell if you've let the bot write for you. I certainly can. Beyond it being monotonous to see the same scripted message over and over again, why would I spend my time talking to or helping someone who couldn't be bothered to write me their own message?
Don't make assumptions or tell me what I can do. I don't want to just pass information along because I'm not sure that's the best use of my or your time, or my credibility if you're asking me to refer you for a job or intro to someone in my network. Allow me the time to chat with you and think about the best next step. It might not necessarily be what you were thinking, but it might work out for the best. There's also a higher likelihood that I'll be invested in you and what you want your final outcome to be if you give me the chance to work with you.
Start small. This is the first time we're meeting, make a small ask, most likely a 15-30 minute conversation. I'll always be open to that before launching into a multi-step project you're asking me to take on (yes, referring you for a job is a multi-step project at most companies, especially if you actually want to be hired.)
Be grateful. Remember that you're asking someone else for a favor. Be thoughtful and grateful for their time. This bakes into each of the first four points.
I can't say that these steps are perfect or will work on everyone, but I can tell you that you'll stand out from the massive amount of people (read: most people) who don't take the time to be original.
I hope this helps, and if it does, I look forward to chatting soon.