Networking: Why It's Best to Avoid "Similar Interests"

In networking you can't always get introduced to another person so contacting them directly is unavoidable. But there are good ways and bad ways to do this. Looking through some poorly-crafted cold messages recently I realize that there are some common expressions that ring alarm bells.

One of my favorites is when people suggest connecting because "we have similar interests". What's wrong with that? The problem is that, rightly or wrongly, it looks very spammy. A spammy message is one that could be sent to thousands of people without being changed and that sends the wrong message. It also suggests that you have no idea what I do. If we really do have similar interests why are you unable to name even one of them. What makes this worse is that the person sending this message often hasn't even read my profile. I suspect that they are just sending the same message to thousands of people and literally have no idea who they are talking to.

There is a good litmus test for a networking message sent by someone you don't know. Simply ask yourself if the message could have been sent to anyone else. If the answer is yes then it is too spammy to be really effective. An ideal networking message will work only for the person who it is being sent to. So this means it refers to something that I have done specifically -- perhaps a comment about something I have written or something I have said in a lecture.

An ability to craft messages that will resonate with the person you are contacting is an important networking skill to have. There are many ways to make a message more effective but most are covered by this one simple rule: it must be personalized to demonstrate that it is a message for me and not just spam fired in random directions. Part of this personalization is learning to avoid risky formulas like "shared interests". If we really do have a shared interest then please say what it is. And if you don't know you had better find out before you send that message.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing and a Book

If you would like lectures, workshops or coaching about professional networking you can contact Andrew Hennigan at or 0046 73 089 44 75. There is also a book about networking that explains even more. You can order paperback or Kindle editions from Amazon at  You can also try connecting, but just don't use "shared interests" if you want an answer. 


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