How to Write a Networking Email

How to Write a Networking Email

When a man comes to me for advice, I find out the kind of advice he wants, and I give it to him.  ~Henry Wheeler Shaw

Asking for help from people you have never met can be daunting.  However, it is a critical part of networking with which you need to be comfortable.   Many people have asked me how to write a networking email.  I have three simple rules that should  resonate with your networking prospect:

  • Rule 1: Be Brief.   If the email cannot be read quickly, it will not be read at all.
  • Rule 2: Be Clear.  Tell the prospect exactly what you are trying to accomplish.
  • Rule 3: Ask for Advice.    This is the most important rule.  I love to give advice.  You love to give advice.  Heck, everyone loves to give advice.  Remember, you are not looking for a job…you are looking for advice about finding a new opportunity.   You are not asking to be introduced to person X, you are looking for suggestions on how to be introduced to person X.

Recently, a friend of mine in transition had a great interest in working at a specific company (call it “ABC Company”).  I knew an executive (call him “Bob”) at ABC Company and  suggested my friend send Bob an introductory networking email.  My friend asked if I could draft the email for him.  So with these 3 rules in mind, I wrote:

Subject:  Shaun Heneghan suggested I reach out to you.

Dear Bob,

Shaun suggested you might be willing to share some advice and coaching with me about ABC company.  I am currently in transition and your insight and perspectives on your organization would be greatly appreciated.   With your permission, I will reach out to your executive assistant, Susan, tomorrow to find a time to meet for coffee or to schedule a brief phone call at your convenience.

Thank you in advance,
Your name.

Note that it begins with my name, to catch Bob’s attention.  The email is three sentences long, states clearly what he wants, and ends by setting an expectation.  My friend did his homework to find the Executive Assistant’s name, and was respectful both in tone and with the prospect’s time.  The key terms are very non-threatening: share, advice, coaching, insight, perspectives, etc.

Not all requests are going to be successful–most people will respond positively and some will ignore your request completely.   This is normal.   When you send a networking email with these three rules in mind, a failure to respond says less about the note, and more about the person receiving the note.

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