The age old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” does bear more truth than you may think. But how do you get to know people? And how do you make sure that your newest connection isn’t just another dead end? Tom Dezell, career advisor and author of “Networking for the Novice, Nervous, or Naïve Job Seeker”, and Danny Rubin, author of "Wait, How Do I Write This Email?", weigh in on what you’re probably doing wrong and what you should be doing instead to make your networking emails a success.
You need to know what you want to get out of making this connection before writing anything down. Are you looking for a mentor? Do you simply admire this person professionally and want to get to know them? Put yourself in his or her shoes, what would make you open a random email from a stranger? That’s what he or she thinks when they see an email titled “networking” or “connect.” Dezell notes that you want to establish a connection the other person, thus giving them a reason to read your email. “On an email, the subject line is very important in determining whether it’s read or not,” he says. “If a friend or colleague referred you, or you’re a fellow alum or share another common professional group, mention this.” Don’t wait until the body of your email to try and make a connection. Start with the subject to get the reader more interested.
Show your passion
To make a connection with someone you need to show your interest in the person and company. Specifically, you need to be able to say what about this company or person interests you. Research the company and learn about their new projects and office culture to establish some interesting talking points. Dezell suggests showing in your email what projects attracted you to the company and how it connects to your career. “Employers will see many people looking for an internship or entry-level job and know that the more engaged worker will be one who knows more particulars about why the work helps them as well as the company,” he says. Don’t let your email be a fan letter. Let it be a representation of your passion for the company and the work they do.
Know that this isn't a job application
A common mistake that people make is making their email all about needing a job or internship. Appearing desperate can turn off your prospective connection. Keep this in mind when writing your email and when sending it. Dezell notes not to wait for an open job to be posted before reaching out. “If you have a particular company of interest, reach out to an individual there in position to help or hire you and ask to meet before any openings are announced,” he says. A good first impression goes a long way and if you’re successful that means you now have a supporter in the company.
A thought-out compliment goes a long way
The content of your email should be balanced and, as mentioned earlier, not a fan letter. With that being said, however, a well thought out compliment goes a long way. Rubin knows that you must "give before you get." Meaning you need to devote time to earning someones respect and trust via email. "It's not enough to write, 'Looks like your doing great stuff with your career!'," he says. "That's empty rhetoric because you could use the line but never do any research." You have to prove that you made the time to learn about someone elses career. This shows that your interest is authentic and will give the person a tiny ego boost. Rubin says, "even the busiest people will stop in their tracks when someone asks for their knowledge or instruction." Which leads to another important point.
Related: The Lazy Girl’s Guide To Networking
Ask smart questions
This seems like a no-brainer, but you really have to think before you type when it comes to asking questions. If you can find the answer to the question you're asking from a simple Google search, then you should re-think it. Rachel Petty, a senior at James Madison University, has found success with networking emails after asking strategic questions. "I've found that it's always good to ask questions," she says. "If you leave it open-ended, the person you're emailing will be more likely to reply!" Rubin agrees and mentions that this will make the other person feel valued. "Even the busiest people will stop in their tracks when someone asks for their knowledge or instruction," he says. Asking questions also gives the other person an opportunity to email you back. It's easier to ignore an email when there isn't anything specific to respond to.
Successful networking emails mean your newest connection isn't just another number on your LinkedIn account. To get to that point you must start with a killer email that will not only impresses the reader, but also compliment them, show your personality and give the other person an opportunity to start a dialogue. Networking emails won't be so daunting after practice, patience, and some thoughtful editing.