We get it — networking isn’t always everyone’s favourite activity, especially when it comes to cold contacting people. Reaching out to someone you don’t know can feel super awkward. And yet we all know that connecting with people in your field, especially those who are a few steps (or years) ahead of you, is one of the best ways to grow as a professional. So how do you go about it with the least amount of discomfort?
If you’re feeling uneasy about how to phrase a networking email to a stranger, then you’ve come to the right place. It doesn't have to be totally intimidating — you just have to nail a few basics. Ahead, we break down six crucial tips to make sure you craft the perfect email that will get a response from your recipient.
1. Do your research
You're probably already scoping out people who are doing something you'd like to be doing — it comes with the territory of social media. (And if you haven't been doing so intentionally, and thinking about what they did to get where they are, then you should be.) But what do you do once you've identified these individuals who have your dream job or are in a field you want to break into?
The next step requires some research. Before you reach out, make sure you understand what it is this person does. It’s not enough to just know their job title: Make sure you have a handle on what they have been up to and what their current position entails. Striking up a conversation with someone can catch them off guard, so it’s important to make sure you make your email as personal as possible.
2. Keep it short and sweet
When reaching out, it’s important to not overwhelm your recipient with a long-winded block of text. Short and sweet is definitely the way to go.
You can get into the nitty-gritty of your own experience and story once you confirm your meeting, but for now, include details that are pertinent. The most crucial purpose of this email is to make your ask crystal clear, so keep your message to just four or five sentences max, so that your request doesn’t get buried.
3. Settle logistics early
Most likely, you’re getting in touch with someone who lives in the same city as you (or perhaps one you plan on visiting) or within close proximity. If they’ve made it clear where they live on social media, feel free to put the ball in their court and ask them if they have a local coffee shop that they like going to.
If you’re not sure about this information, then you can cross this bridge when they respond. But be clear that your intention is to make the meeting as painless and convenient as possible for them. After all, they’re taking time out of their lives to help you. Also, for the same reasons — and this should go without saying — the bill’s on you.
4. For example
Now that we’ve clarified what your networking email should include, let’s take a look at an example. This is just a basic template, and you should customize it with as much personal and pertinent information as you have on hand.
Hi [insert recipient’s first name],
My name is [insert your first name], and I’m a [insert your job title] based in [insert your location]. I’m writing to you because [insert main reason for wanting to meet].
I am sure you’re super busy, but if you could find the time to grab a quick tea or coffee [or insert other activity] in [insert neighbourhood, if applicable] or somewhere that’s convenient for you, I’d really appreciate it. I’d love to learn more about [insert 1-2 things you admire about or would like to learn from the recipient].
[Insert your name]
5. Follow up
People are busy, and sometimes emails fall between the cracks. If it’s been over a week and you still haven’t heard back, consider writing a brief follow-up email. Here is a template:
Hi [insert recipient’s name],
I wanted to follow up on my request for a quick meeting. As I mentioned, I would really appreciate the chance to talk to you about [insert main reason for wanting to meet]. I’d especially love to hear more about [insert something this person recently did that impressed you]. I’m more than happy to meet you wherever is best for you.
[Insert your name]
6. Say thanks!
If you manage to get the meeting you are after, make sure to follow up with a tailored thank-you note. If you agreed to send materials over — whether your portfolio, résumé, or that recent life-changing article you mentioned — now’s the time to do it.
Make sure your email is concise and includes a heartfelt thanks to this person for indulging you in your professional inquiries. If appropriate, feel free to include a brief line asking whether it would be all right to stay in touch in the future. Then wish them all the best.