How to Start a Networking Email
The other day a friend asked for my advice on how to begin a networking email. To best answer her question I (of course) consulted our WetFeet library and discovered: we’re lacking insight on this topic!
So I decided to do a little research. There are a few reasons you may be sending someone a networking email, and there are a few ways to do it. Of course, you shouldalways have some sort of mutual connection—I don’t recommend sending a “cold email.”
Below are four ways to begin a networking email. What follows these intro paragraphs should be a brief (5 sentences, max) overview of your skills and where you’re currently working. I would suggest not attaching your resume to this first email—only once you have a good rapport going, and the contact asks for more detail on your background, should you send a resume. And, of course, do not treat a networking email as a request for a job or interview—unless one is offered up by the contact.
Scenario 1: You got their name/info from a mutual contact (and the mutual contact has told them you’ll be reaching out).
My former colleague, Jane Doe, gave me your contact information to set up a networking interview. As I’m sure she mentioned, I’m looking to change jobs in the coming months, and I’m interested in breaking into public relations. I appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to meet with me for lunch. I’m looking for any advice and suggestions on how I can improve my networking skills and overall job search.
Scenario 2: You’re reaching out to a peer in a professional organization.
We both belong to the Philadelphia Social Media Professionals Association, and I have long been a fan of the email updates you send out about trends in SEO writing. As a newcomer to the industry, I’m looking to make connections in the field and as an admirer of your email updates, I thought you would be an excellent source of information and advice. I was hoping we might be able to meet up for coffee sometime, at your convenience.
Scenario 3: You’re reaching out to an alumnus from your university.
I located your contact information in the University of Timbuktu alumni network and I was hoping we might be able to connect over the telephone for 15 minutes at your convenience. It would be great to learn more about your background including how you got started in private equity at Company X and to connect with a University of Timbuktu alum.
Scenario 4: You’re reaching out to a connection you met at a career fair, industry event, dinner party, etc.
We met on Tuesday evening at the DC’s Society for LEED Architects happy hour. I really enjoyed our conversation on space planning, and I was wondering if you’d like to meet up for lunch sometime this week. I’m always looking to make new connections in the industry, and I’d love to hear more about your background and what you’re currently working on.
You’ve found your very own professional Oprah. A role model. A mentor. Maybe he or she is five years older or 20 years older than you are.
Your Oprah has taken a career path that you desperately want to emulate. You want to know exactly what that person did, why they did it, how they did it etc. More importantly, you want to know how you can accomplish the same things.
Maybe someone introduced you to your Oprah. Or maybe you discovered him or her online. Either way, you know you want to connect, so you hit the keyboard and start typing an email.
But once you’ve determined how you want to connect (phone call, meeting, lunch etc.), what exactly do you say to ensure a positive response? How do you write an email that will make your Oprah want to take the time to meet with you and begin building a relationship?
I write a lot of these emails to my own Oprahs, and nine times out of 10, I get the response I want. I also receive emails from younger contacts who want advice about journalism, online communications or entrepreneurship, and I’ve noticed similarities between the emails from contacts I’m excited to get to know.
So here are some guidelines for writing a first email to kick off a lasting relationship:
Explain who you are — succinctly
Write one or two sentences describing what you do and your interests. This is really important for context. But please, don’t give your life story. Unless you’re Bill Gates, no one wants to read about your high school business venture in an email. Provide just enough information so it is clear who you are, but hold back on some details so you have lots to talk about when you meet.
Take the time to thoughtfully explain why you want to connect
It’s true: Flattery gets you everywhere. There’s no need to gush unabashedly about your contact’s achievements — that’s just awkward. But explain why his or her accomplishments aremeaningful for you. That way your Oprah will have a clear understanding of your purpose for connecting.
Get over your age
While you’re focusing on your Oprah’s excellent experience, don’t feel like you need to highlight your deficit of experience. It doesn’t come off as humble, it just zeroes in on your lack of confidence.
Make a specific request
For a busy person, there’s nothing worse than receiving an email without an action item. If you don’t state what you want you Oprah to do, your contact will have to think harder about your email. This usually means he or she won’t respond right away. Or worse, you might not get a response at all. I find it most effective when I put my request at the very end. Ending an email with a question about meeting on a certain date calls for a yes or no answer.
Follow these guidelines and you’re sure to maximize the chance of getting a response. Odds are your Oprah is a busy person with an overwhelming inbox. So even if you don’t hear back initially, be persistent and follow up appropriately.
Networking Phone Calls
Have you ever noticed that the one person you really need to know, you don’t. Networking phone calls bridge that gap.
The telephone is a critical tool in your job searching toolkit. A confident, informative, focused call to the right person can garner another lead, provide a great referral, book an interview, or even land you the job. Thus, it is essential that you master the art of pitching yourself over the phone.
Types of Calls
During your job search, you will be calling two different categories of people:
Begin with identifying a target company for whom you would like to work. Then, the next step is to establish contacts within that company.
First, scour your own network for those who may know someone there, then you can use them as a warm referral.
If you can’t find any connection between your network and the desired company, you can always use the internet or human resources department to learn the name of an employee who is working at the level you are interested in.
You can then call and ask for that person by name. Once you introduce yourself, you can begin to gather information about the position you desire or even ask for the name of the hiring manager.
You now have an inside track.
Rehearse your “30 second commercial,” lay your suggested script in front of you, take a deep breath and smile. It’s time to dial the phone.
Components of a Successful Call
Your phone call will consist of five parts:
1. Brief Introduction. Share your name, the name of the person who referred you, or any connecting piece of information that will establish rapport and common ground.
2. Opening Question. Ask a question that will introduce the topic of the company’s opening or opportunity.
3. Gather Information. Continue to ask open-ended questions of your contact so that you can gather helpful information about the company’s exact needs. Begin to position yourself as a solution to their problem.
4. Sympathize and Solve. Show appropriate sympathy for the position the company finds itself in and then explain how you are just the solution they are looking for.
5. Close. End the conversation with a direct request for the hiring manager’s contact information or if you are speaking to the decision maker set a date for an interview to further discuss the valuable contribution you can make to the company. Thank them.
“I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance.
It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”
John D. Rockefeller
Sample Networking Phone Call
In brief, your conversation will sound like this:
1. Brief Introduction. “Frank, this is Nancy. Susan Smith suggested I give you a call. Is this a good time?”
2. Opening Question. “I wonder if you can help me with some information. Frank mentioned that due to company lay-offs you are having a hard time keeping up with your marketing efforts.”
3. Gather Information. “How are you planning to get the word out about your terrific products?”
4. Sympathize and Solve. “Out-sourcing your marketing sounds like a big change. I am a cutting edge graphic designer and have an extensive marketing background. I believe I can provide the high quality marketing you are used to at the substantial savings you need.”
5. Close. “I would love to speak to the head of that department to discuss all the ways that I can help. What is the best way to approach him? Thanks so much for all your help, is there anyway that I might be able to do something for you?”
Write out your potential script for each of these five steps. Think through potential objectives or questions.
With networking phone calls, the key is practice, practice, practice.
With every call you make, you will get better and better.
For more great resources, follow these links:
Sample Networking Letter to an Acquaintance
Sample Networking Letter to a Stranger
Dear [friends name],
So many things have changed since I saw you last, it is hard to know where to begin. My career has taken some exciting turns in the past few years. My knowledge of the industry has grown, I’ve added some new skills, and gained some invaluable experience. All this has set me up to move to the next stage of my career.
This is why I am writing to you. I would really appreciate your advice and your help. I would like you to look over my resume and consider what companies in your area might be a good match for my skills. Also, if you could suggest the name of someone I can contact in that company, I’d be grateful.
If you have any other advice or thoughts, they would be welcome. You have been an important part of my life and I value your wisdom.
I will call you in a few days to see what ideas you might have. Thank you in advance for all your help.
All the best,
Sample Networking Letter to a Stranger
You can use the template below to customize a personal letter to someone you don’t know, a letter that will help you grow your valuable network.
Dear [contact’s name],
I am writing to you at the recommendation of Susan Smith. Susan knows of my interest in the publishing industry and in that context mentioned your recent promotion to Senior Editor. Congratulations.
I am currently exploring new opportunities in this field as I seek to advance in my career. I do not expect you to have an opening, but would love to seek your advice. With your vast experience, I am hoping that you can help me gain a broader knowledge of the new directions in which our field is moving.
I would love the opportunity to meet you for coffee or buy you lunch while I learn from your experience. If your schedule does not allow for that, I would gladly make myself available to come to your office for the briefest of meetings.
I will give your secretary a call in a few days to see what you have available. Many thanks to you in advance for your help.
By using this simple template, you will soon feel comfortable and competent in the art of job networking.
via Letter to Stranger.
via Letter to Stranger.
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.
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,
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.