Space newbies on LinkedIn – Do this, not that

Anybody trying to build a career in the space industry must have sent a LinkedIn connect to strangers with interesting profiles and asked for their advice or sometimes even help.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing this on LinkedIn, after all, that’s exactly what makes LinkedIn so awesome. I myself get a dozen messages every week from mostly students and young professionals seeking career advice and I try to respond to all of them. Except for the ones which sound like the following:

<Begin>
Hi. My name is ***I am currently doing ***.
What is the procedure to get into *** course at *** University?
How are the career prospects? What GRE score is needed for this course?
Which clg did you short-list?
What are the regulations for non-citizens? Are there any language barriers?
<End>

Just to be clear, I am stranger to this person and this is the person’s first message to me. After about 100 messages like this from even seemingly well-traveled professionals and international students, this post seemed inevitable. It was quite annoying to see how people take others’ time for granted in sending such impolite random queries.

But on the off chance that these budding space professionals are somehow unaware of basic social etiquette, I decided to share some pointers on how to ask strangers for help on LinkedIn and actually get a response.

So if you’ve been having a tough time getting a response to your messages on LinkedIn, this post might be of help. If you find them cool enough to ask for help, then they must be busy enough to simply ignore your messages. They might glance at that message notification and those 2 seconds are your chance to make an impression. Remember, you are the only beneficiary to this interaction, that person won’t get anything from answering you. They will only respond out of humanity, if at all, and only to professional sounding messages.

The following are a few guidelines to add more value to your message (LinkedIn, Email, other) before you click that send button:

1) Introduce yourself. Even if you had met that other person previously, introduce yourself again and mention how exactly you met or knew each other. If they cannot place you immediately, they will ignore or postpone answering and eventually forget all about it.

2) Write a sentence or two why exactly you are asking that particular person that particular thing. Just so it doesn’t seem like you are bombarding all your LinkedIn contacts with the same message.

3) Do a simple google search before asking for any information. Or check the website of the university (regarding a course) or company (regarding a job/position). If still not found, then send that message but do mention where and how all you have tried to look for the information. This shows that you had indeed put in some efforts and not using this person as your personal Google.

4) Use the magic words ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’. Acknowledge the other person’s time and efforts in even reading your message.  The space industry is a small world that highly values teamwork, most times even over personal brilliance. Nobody wants to be around an entitled person and here word spreads quickly.

5) English language skills might not be everyone’s forte but bad grammar and spelling are always off-putting, even to non-native speakers. If you can use LinkedIn, then you can certainly get a grammar/spelling check done on your message (online for free).

6) Don’t ask vague questions such as ‘What is the difference in work culture there and here?’. If a question requires an answer with more than 2 sentences, they will not respond. Because, obviously, nobody wants to throw a well-written essay into a black hole. Such questions are to be asked in person, if at all.
If you really need this information, then you can politely ask the person to perhaps write a post about it. ‘Would be great if you could write a post about the difference in work culture given your experience in both places. I’m sure many people would immensely benefit from it.’ And then list out the particular aspects you want to be addressed.

7) This should be quite obvious, but just in case – do not use chat abbreviations or slang such as pls, clg, u, y, etc.

All of these apply even if you know them personally.

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