It can be easy for someone to tell you “Just reach out to people!”, but it’s really not that easy. In most networking situations, you may have not even met the person. How do you reach out without being awkward? How do you sound professional and personable?
First off, it’s about having confidence. You will never get better at it if you don’t start writing them and contacting people. It can be nerve-wracking, but remember, the worst they can say is no. Always remember to be polite when addressing them. Using phrases like “I would appreciate” or “I would be thankful for the opportunity to…” are always good go-to phrases. These are people that you are asking to give you your time, so always say thank you.
HACKING MOMENT: can’t find that person’s email? Go on their website and see what other emails you can find. Most company emails are formulaic and you can just copy it. Lets say you want to contact John Smith but can only find ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. It’s safe to assume his email would be ‘email@example.com’. Also, most newer companies use just first names in their email, so if you can’t find anything else, just try ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’.
NEVER start off the email with “my name is ___ and I am contacting you today because…”. It can feel weird not to do this, but it’s so boring and people skim those messages right over. Your email will end with your name and it is in your signature. The first line would be a good place to bring up what you have learned about their career so far, like “I see that you are working in _____, which has been a dream of mine”. Which reminds me, make sure the person can see in your email that you DID YOUR HOMEWORK. They want to see that you looked at their LinkedIn page or googled their company and that you know the basics.
ANOTHER HACKING MOMENT: If someone has made an introduction for you to this person, make sure to say “I am so glad Bob connected us!”. If someone recommended for you to reach out to this person, you can say something like “Michael told me great things about your company/work and I would love to learn more”.
Make your intentions clear and sound committed to learning from them. In 10 Tips for an Awesome Coffee Meeting, they state that you let the person know what you want to talk about. Give your potential coffee date time to prepare so that they can know what to expect from you. And when you say “thank you” in that final line of the email, say something to show your commitment and excitement like “I look forward to meeting with you”. I promise, it’s not aggressive if you say it politely.
It is important to remember to convey your “yearn to learn’ in the email while also keeping things concise. The longer the email, the more likely the person is to skim it. Here is an example email:
You are a graphic design expert, and I want to be one too. Sally Smith has told me great things about your work on brands like Toyota and Rolling Rock, and I would love to learn more about it. This summer, I am trying to learn as much as I can about the graphic design industry and how I can improve my work. If you have any free time in the next couple weeks, I would appreciate being able to get a quick coffee with you and ask about your projects at WWG Design and how you got your career started after college.
Thanks, Katie! I look forward to meeting with you.
See, it’s not that scary! Just keep practicing and don’t give up! Even if one person doesn’t answer. If you want more examples, be sure to check out Life-Long Learner!