How to Write the Perfect Networking Email: 7 Tips

Sending that first email to someone who potentially holds the key to your dream career is nerve-wracking to say the least. A networking email is your first step to gaining entry to the industry you’ve been studying your butt off to join. It is your way to connect with professionals who do what you wish to do after college – they can give you advice, another contact within the industry, or even an internship! But to whom do you address the email? And what do you even say? HC is here with seven tips to make your networking emails professional and successful.

1. Email the right person

Choosing whom to email within a company can be daunting when considering all the different departments and levels of management within a company. Your best bet is to focus on the department you want to explore as a career option.

“Your ultimate target is the manager in charge of the department you hope to work in,” says Tom Dezell, author of Networking for the Novice, Nervous, or Naive Job Seeker. “Finding this individual is easier now with sites like LinkedIn. Not only can your LinkedIn help find that individual, it will inform you of any other connections you may have. This can facilitate introductions. Don't overlook your alumni office to find possible alums who could either inform you who the desired contact is or facilitate an introduction.”

2. Write an informative subject line

“Need a job.” “Looking to hire?” “Gimme some advice.” These are some terrific examples of what your networking email’s subject line should NOT be. Your email’s subject line should give your contact a quick glimpse of what you are looking to gain from reaching out to them.

“The first priority on the message line should be that you're seeking career information as opposed to internship or job information,” says Dezell. “Career information means advice, whereas job or internship information is perceived more as leads or favors. If someone has no immediate information on leads, they're less likely to respond. However, people love to share advice and will be more willing to respond.”

As an example, a subject such as “PR major seeking career advice” gives industry experts an immediate idea of what you are hoping to get from them. However, the subject line can change depending on if you know the person you are contacting or not.

“If you don't know the individual you're contacting, indicate you seek career information in the person's particular field or areas of expertise based on research you have done that establishes him or her as an expert in a particular field,” says Dezell. “In cases where some level of familiarity exists (a fellow alum, friend of friend… ), point this out in the subject line. In cases where you are referred by someone that knows the individual, reference who referred you in the subject line.”

Dezell also says that even if you know who you’re emailing, remind them of your field of interest and school status because they may not be aware of it.

3. Address it to the appropriate person and use the appropriate language

Remember when your parents would be taken aback when your best buddy in third grade would come into your house and refer to them by their first name? That’s the reaction most professionals will have today if you address an email to them as if you’re besties. Unless you have met a contact before and are on an official first-name basis with them (they said it’s okay to call them “Joe” and not “Mr. Smith”), always refer to a contact as “Mr.” or “Ms.”

“That's the standard format of a business letter, which is what this correspondence is,” says Dezell. “It's an indication you're following business etiquette. I remind experienced professionals of this when they ask about using an email as a cover letter. We tend to be less formal in emails.”

Properly addressing an email shows a certain level of respect and maturity that will be appreciated by career insiders. It’s just one more thing that will help you become a networking expert!

4. Introduce yourself and your goals concisely

Chances are, your contact will not know your educational background or your goals when you first connect with them. In order to give your contact the best sense of why you are emailing them, write a brief bio about where you go to school, what you are majoring in and what you are looking for from your contact.

“The more specific a student can be about what she hopes to learn… the more credibility she gains,” says Dezell. “Provide a concise outline of what your major or degree is, why you chose it, what type of opportunities you seek, as well as why you believe such opportunities can help you reach your goals. This will separate you from those just seeking any job or internship.”

Collegiettes know from experience that the more specifics you give in your introduction, the better. “I used the fact that I was going to be living in Manhattan as a selling point for internships,” says Katie, a junior at Marist College. Trying to make connections in NYC was 10 times easier when employers knew that she was so accessible!

Courtney, a junior at the University of Delaware, also used specifics to get ahead. “As an education major, I highlighted my three years of experience mentoring and tutoring at the local Boys & Girls Club and the elementary school on campus so my contact would know I’m serious about a future as an educator,” she says.

Professionals will be more willing to be generous with their time if they know specifically how to help you in your career goals, so give them insight into what you are passionate about accomplishing!