Networking is a critical skill to have when trying to land a job nowadays. While networking may seem like it is for extreme extroverts, only 70% of the population is considered to be extroverts. That means that there are other ways to network besides face-to-face interactions. One of these ways includes E-mail. E-mailing a potential connection is a great way to establish a foundation while not having the awkward in person informational interview. Better yet, you can send E-mails out to dozens of people and expand your networking options more than in-person consultations.
The first step is to find the right people to network with. This can be done using LinkedIn for research. LinkedIn has a very cool new feature that allows you to type in your school and field of study to see what careers other people who graduated with your major are in. Note, it might take a bit more research to actually find the person’s E-mail address once you have his or her LinkedIn profile, however, you can always start by sending them a private message directly from LinkedIn.
Next, do a bit of background research to try to find something in common. This should be typed into the subject of the E-mail later so the person actually opens it. A great similarity such as university, hometown, or acquaintances in common will make this person more likely to help you in your job prospects.
While you are doing the background research, look for career accomplishments that you really admire. For example, if you want to be a doctor for a certain hospital and the person has worked there in the past, that is a good thing to bring up in your E-mail. Make sure you know enough about the person’s career to be able to carry on a 10 minute conversation with them.
Now that you have found the person, conducted background research, and have an appropriate E-mail address, it is time to craft what you will say. You want to keep it as brief as possible. In the subject line, write what connects you with the words “hoping for advice”. For example, “Fellow Santa Clara University alum hoping for advice”. If you did not find something in common, write “perspective doctor hoping for advice.” It is less likely that your E-mail will be opened, but it is still a good networking opportunity.
In the body of the E-mail, be respectful and polite. Address the person as “Mr.” and “Ms.” with their last name. You do not have to write “Dear Mr. Miller”, a simple “Hi Mr. Miller” sounds more conversational—like you are asking for advice at a party. This will make the person feel like he or she knows you more.
Tell the person how you find his E-mail and introduce yourself. For example, “I found your E-mail after a LinkedIn search of Santa Clara alumni who work at Cedars-Sinai Medical Hospital”. Tell the person what year you graduated, or will graduate, along with a brief history of your work or volunteer experience so far. Then, most importantly, express your career aspects and goals. Say, “My ultimate career goal is to be a medical doctor in California”. Try to keep it specific so that it looks like you have a clear path mapped out in your head. This will make you look serious about your aspirations.
Now that you have introduced yourself, ask for further correspondence. This is where you can tell them why you admire their work. Say something along the lines of, “I noticed from your LinkedIn that you are a very accomplished surgeon. I was hoping to speak with you on the phone about your career if you have an extra 10 minutes at some point.” Throwing a subtle compliment into the E-mail will make the person more likely to help you out. Remember, this person will hopefully serve as a mentor and connection to you going forward in your career, so any sort of gratitude or admiration expressed by you will only help to propel the relationship forward.
Signing the E-mail is important. Always thank the person for their time. Then, put your full name, E-mail address and phone number at the bottom so that they have a few different methods of contacting you. Some good sign off greetings are “Thank you”, “Best”, and “Kind regards” these are professional and friendly.
Timing is crucial, so try and time your E-mail so that the recipient receives it at a good hour. Never send an E-mail on a Monday or a Friday, because this is when people are busy catching up from the weekend or preparing for the weekend; ideally you should aim for a Tuesday through Thursday E-mail. Try to send the E-mail in the morning, when people are most likely to check their E-mails. 8AM is always a good time, as most people get into the office by 8 or 9. Your E-mail will be at the top of the inbox and therefore more likely to be clicked and opened.
If you do not hear back within a week, send a follow up E-mail circling back and asking what time would be best to talk. This is an excellent way to help build real connections in a virtualized world! With your perfect networking E-mail complete, you will be on your way to getting your dream job!
Originally published Dec 18, 2014, updated Aug 12, 2020