It can be awkward, sometimes even downright painful to start a conversation, especially when you're looking for a job.
LinkedIn is now offering users tips, called Conversation Starters, for how to connect or reconnect with other members through its messaging feature. The professional network launched the new option Tuesday with the simple goal of helping break the ice in informal ways.
"Our members have a lot of connections they aren't necessarily talking to on a regular basis. Maybe they want to reconnect with an old boss or a former co-worker. We think this helps," Mark Hull, LinkedIn's director of product management, told CNET. "We're just providing ways to have even smarter and more productive conversations."
LinkedIn's update comes more than a year after revamping its messaging feature, which provides for shorter, more casual conversations. Since the messaging overhaul, LinkedIn said the number of messages sent has increased 240 percent and half of its 467 million members use the platform each week.
The latest option in messaging is among a string of recent releases for LinkedIn, including a new Salary feature to maximize users' earning potential and updates to its popular Skills and Endorsements feature. Another feature, Open Candidates, allows members to discreetly notify recruiters they're job hunting without their current employer finding out.
In June, Microsoft said it would buy LinkedIn for $26.2 billion. In a blog post Tuesday, Microsoft President Brad Smith said the deal has cleared all of the legal hurdles and the company will acquire LinkedIn by the end of the year.
Members can use Conversation Starters by creating a new message in the messaging feature and tapping the lightbulb icon. There, they will see examples to help get the chat going, including whether their connection is starting a new job or celebrating a work anniversary, if they have mutual friends, and if they can provide an introduction to another connection.
While the examples may seem obvious, Hull said some people may be reluctant to ask someone else about possible job openings or professional advice, especially when they haven't had much contact with them.
"Hopefully we can make it that much easier for them," he said.