How To Outreach On LinkedIn Without Feeling Slimy

Jeff Harry
3 min readDec 18, 2020
Don’t be this guy.

The famous play thought leader and a play mentor of mine, Kevin Carroll, asks:

What type of conversation are you trying to have:

A transactional or transformational conversation?

In this new reality of fake authenticity, I’ve found that many times when I received a LinkedIn message, I got a feigned interest in me, followed up with what that person is selling. I’m not sure what is worse. Pretending that you want to be friends or simply asking me to give you money directly. Both don’t feel good.

So, I’ve thought about how can a LinkedIn message actually not feel slimy even if you do want to ask something from that person. There is something powerful that I heard Shia Lebouf say in an interview at the Oxford Union that I thought was really profound:

Shia Lebouf talking about what it means to give vs. what it means to take

“There is something pure about a person that just comes in and gives…and doesn’t try to take nothing. Sometimes a selfie, sometimes, feels a bit like a take. Sometimes. Not all the time. It’s all in like the approach. If they are asking questions just to get to the selfie, you can feel it. If you are having an actual dialog about something, everyone is into it and that comes up at the end, it doesn’t seem as much of a take.” — Shia Lebouf

So, what is your approach that won’t simply be a take? What can you offer? Good conversation, recognizing them for their work, what can you do to start a dialog that is real and genuine, and not so transactional.

Here is a tip that has helped me when sending a cold email or LinkedIn message:

  • Find out as much about the person as you can, looking through their LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Medium articles, or any other way that they are expressing themselves
  • Identify what ideas they shared that resonate with them and connect with them on that level
  • Show that you did your homework and research and you do know them to a certain extent
  • In your outreach email or message, GIVE!
  • Offer them something that might be helpful to their work (I.e. new research, certain people that they would resonate with, great questions to ask about their work that help them explore it in more depth)

After you have given, then consider if it feels right to ask for anything. Maybe it won’t, so then just keep giving. Perhaps that person will eventually ask you how they can help you or maybe they won’t. Let go of the results of trying to get something out of them and simply connect with them as a human being to another human being. Even with all the technology and all the information at our fingertips, It’s amazing how much we forget to do this simple act of humanity.

The reason you feel slimy about your approach is that it is not coming from a place of integrity. If you do the work where you don’t ever feel ashamed for showing up the way you are, you’ll let go of the feeling of being “salesly.” Learn how to give without expecting anything in return and see how that feels.

If you show up with generosity, vulnerability, and a willingness to simply be you, the work will eventually come. You’ll just need to trust the process.

Originally published at on December 18, 2020.



Jeff Harry

Workplace Positive Psychology Play Whisperer / Helping Fortune 500 Companies Build Psychologically Safe Workspaces Through Positive Psychology & Play