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I'm Gonna Change Your Life Forever

 
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There are a lot of “firsts” that stick with you as a parent.

First steps. Words. Birthday party.

First LinkedIn profile.

I knew my middle son was taking a career preparedness class this semester, but I didn’t think much about it until he sent me a LinkedIn connection request last week. Unlike a lot of the requests from people who are clearly angling to hit me with a sales pitch, this one passed the sniff test for a few reasons:

  • We’ve met in person

  • We have a history together — I’ve known him since before he was born nearly 21 years ago

  • I’ve seen his work

With those boxes checked, I felt pretty good about connecting with this “Cameron Terry” character. So I clicked the “accept” link.

A few minutes later, I got two more requests.

BING!

BING!

I didn’t recognize the names, but I noticed the wannabe connections go to school with Son No. 2 at Robert Morris University in Chicago. There seemed to be a pattern.

It was cool to see all these guys making an effort. They know LinkedIn is part of building and maintaining relationships in the professional world, so they’re getting busy and doing the thing. What I had a problem with is that none of them took the time to introduce themselves with a personalized note.

I want to think the person who teaches Job Getting 101 would tell students how important it is to create a personal connection. Maybe that was part of the lesson, and the kids ignored it. Or perhaps the instructor isn’t hip to how we work outside academia and doesn’t realize the “cold connection request” is a bad thing.

So I took the opportunity to pull a Sarah Silverman.

When she was on an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Sarah told Jerry Seinfeld she has a thing about helping people with their manners. One example is that when someone gives her a limp handshake, she lets them know they need to amp up the firmness. Her opening line is, “I’m gonna change your life forever.”

I’ve used that a few times since hearing Sarah say it.

Receiving the LinkedIn invites was a perfect “change your life” moment. If I don’t tell them now, then who knows how long it’ll be before they realize the importance of making that personal connection. Eventually, they’ll figure it out, or someone will say something. But sooner is better than later.

First, I wrote to Son No. 2 and explained how it should be done. I told him he could coach his buddies, and even gave him an example they can use as a starting point from now on:

"Hi. I'm a friend of Cameron's from RMU. I understand you have connections at technology companies. Thought it would be good to connect with you as I start my job search."

Short and sweet.

A couple days later, I reached out to the guys myself and reinforced the message. I was nice. Kept it light. And hopefully, I gave them the impression that I’m approachable and willing to help.

Or — maybe they got the impression I’m a complete dick.

I’ll stand by and wait for a report back from the Windy City.

Now It's Your Turn

There's a good chance someone in your world needs this message. Maybe a son who's about to graduate, or a niece who is new to business.

Luckily for you, I’ve already done the hard work. All you have to do is forward my email.

That way maybe I can take the hit, and they’ll only think of you as half a dick.

Once you get that worked out, you can tell your family member or friend to connect with me if they work in a creative field, marketing, advertising, or technology. And if you know anybody looking for an entry-level computer networking person in Chicago — I have someone in mind.


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John Terry