With the new year in full swing, professionals looking to achieve their next career goals may be looking to make new connections or even reconnect with old acquaintances. In order to start networking more, however, you first need to get the attention of that coveted contact. While it is a necessary part of the process, you may be unsure of how to reach out to someone and immediately ask them for a favor.
Regardless of that anxiety, you know that those personal connections are often the best way to learn new information or gain access to beneficial opportunities. When reaching out to a professional you admire, the first point of contact—typically an email—is crucial. After all, you must first get them to agree to meet with you before you can benefit from their wealth of knowledge. When crafting your email, follow these general guidelines to have the best chance at receiving a response from your desired connection:
Start with a strong subject line
The first thing you see in your inbox is the subject line, which should tell you whether or not you’re interested in the contents of the email. In order to get this professional to open your email, you’ll need to craft a subject line that is descriptive and timely. It should imply exactly what you’re wishing to get from your contact, and it should suggest that action on their part should be taken. Additionally, a hint of flattery should never be underestimated. For example, a subject line of “Can I take you out for a coffee interview next week?” hits all of these marks, while “Have time to chat?” is less descriptive. Plus, it implies that if they don’t have the time, they can brush off your request.
Carry a friendly tone
As you begin your email, be sure to carry a conversational tone throughout. While you may not feel like their peer, you don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable or as though you’re asking a lot of them. Additionally, you want to express respect without conveying a sense that you feel intimidated by them. As a result, begin your message by addressing them by their first name rather than “To Whom It May Concern,” or “Dear Mrs. Smith.”
Start with context
If this person is unfamiliar with you, be sure to start by introducing yourself. By touching upon who you are and what you do, this professional can already start understanding why you might be reaching out to them. Additionally, you want to be sure that you aren’t wasting their time. Once they know who you are, specify exactly why you’ve reached out to them and how you would like them to help you.
Don’t be afraid to flatter
In this situation, flattery can be very effective, especially when you really mean it. As a result, start by telling them specifically why they are the person you wanted to meet with. Explain what it is about their work that stands out to you.
While you may be inclined to suggest drinks or lunch, remember that those activities can take an hour or longer. Suggesting something like coffee can be a more flexible activity, and it can take 20 minutes or less. Even a phone call may give you the answers you’re looking for, so ensure that you offer to work around this professional’s busy schedule. The easier it is for them, the more likely it is that they will say yes.
Say “Thank You”
Regardless of how the situation turns out, remember that the fact that they opened your email and took time to read your request was very kind of them. As a result, don’t forget to seal your email with a heartfelt “Thank You.” Not only is it the right thing to do, but it is important that they know how much you appreciate their time—even the two minutes they took to read the email.
Always keep in mind that many professionals have a busy work life; additionally, the beginning of the year can mean a heavier workload for some. As a result, be sure that you give them the time and opportunity to respond before you follow up with them. By waiting about a week, you’ll give them the chance to get more pressing work accomplished before responding to you. If you don’t allow for that time before sending another email, they may feel as though you’re pestering them or that you’re not understanding of their busy schedule.