We’re all working from home right now, and missing those in-person networking opportunities that were once in abundance. Some may rejoice at this notion, but being able to network successfully is essential for any career.
Working from home gives you a whole new opportunity to brush up your networking email skills. Here’s 8 short tips, plus an example of a networking email which puts all this advice into practice.
1. Know Who You Want to Know
Start with a strong strategy and ask yourself those classic Wh- questions. What are you networking for? Who is it you want to know, and why are they useful to you? When is the best time to reach out?
If you’re looking for a job, knowing the function, industry, and location you want to work in should help you narrow the target. You might be tempted to search for people who are hiring for the role you want. But a better place to start may be people who have that role now, or did once, so you can gain more insight into that particular company.
2. Establish a Connection
You’re far more likely to get a positive response when you have a mutual connection. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to know the same person, although that can be helpful.
You may have gone to the same school or done the same marketing qualification. Narrow your contact list further by people who are in your same communities, especially if you don’t know them personally yet. You’ll be able to find out a lot of these sorts of things on LinkedIn.
It’s worth bearing in mind that a little flattery goes a long way – by all means, praise something they’ve written, their impressive career development, or something else that’s appropriate, but don’t overdo it.
3. Keep It Short (and Polite)
Your networking email should read like a warm request to a colleague rather than an email to your bestie. You don’t want to be too familiar, but you don’t want to come across cold either.
Keeping it short – at one paragraph of about five lines – should be a good way to keep your tone in check, making sure it’s not too clipped nor too rambling.
4. Be Clear on Your Ask, and Ask for Something Reasonable
(Hint: Asking someone to review your CV, read your manuscript, or recommend you to be hired is not reasonable.)
Cold networking emails are marketing emails by another name. And like in marketing mails, you must have a clear call to action. Of course, you want that call to action to be easy to say yes to. Why else would you send the email out in the first place?
Most people are flattered to be asked for their advice or insight, and a lot of people will give five to ten minutes of their time to share it – if you’re transparent about exactly what it is you want.
5. Show Enthusiasm and Gratitude
Thanking someone for their time, even before you’ve met, shows that you have the humility to know that their time is valuable and you’ve not taken them for granted.
Being enthusiastic at the end about the prospect of a conversation is important too. It’ll show that you’re invested in the person and excited about the outcome.
6. Follow up (Twice if You Need To)
People get busy. Don’t assume malice – you may just have dropped down the inbox. Follow up once or twice, after a week or two, in a friendly way. They may just be really slow on non-urgent requests and be taking some time to get back to you.
Beyond that, don’t worry. Try something else. Perhaps a colleague or someone from a different organization may be able to give you some similar insight.
7. Follow up Again (Once You’ve Met)
Once you’ve virtually met, a brief thank-you follow up with something for them that references your conversation will really make a great lasting impression.
A link to an article referencing a subject they expressed interest in is a great touch and cements you as a detail-oriented, conscientious person.
8. Leverage the Connection
If you’ve made a good connection, ask them if they know anyone else who they think would be helpful for you to speak with. This last step is the magic step. It’s how we start to expand our networks beyond our 1st and 2nd degree contacts.
It’s where you’ll really start to see results and build your address book. You never know who will be a useful person to have in there for future reference, so keep your mind open and your contact list updated.
Here’s an example which puts all of these tips into practice:
I’ve been enjoying your column in Women on Business. As an early careers professional navigating a job search in the COVID economy, your latest article about effective networking emails was especially impactful.
I’m a freelance writer and passionate advocate for promoting women in business. It’s my dream to one day write for a publication like Women on Business, and I would love to gain your insight and understand how you made your way to where you are. I’m keen to make sure I’m taking the right steps in my career now.
I appreciate you must be hugely busy. Would you have five minutes for a quick video chat sometime this week or next?
Thank you very much. I look forward to connecting.
So, go forth and network from your armchair. Build those connections and gain the insight you know you want. With these tips, you’re sure to get a great response. Let me know what you think in the comments below!