Contacting people you don’t know, even over e-mail, can be intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. If you do your research, compose a professional communication, and get the right message across, it can be a rewarding process and a critical part of building your network.
While there are a number of different ways that you can reach out to your contact, I recommend e-mailing your contact through LinkedIn if possible. See my post for a quick primer on how to contact individuals on LinkedIn.
Here’s what you want to convey in your message:
- Explain your connection to the person. Did you get their name from a mutual colleague or friend? Were you searching for a certain type of job and found this person because they worked the position you are interested in?
- Do your research. There are many ways you can research the person. Find out the person’s professional history and find a way to weave that briefly into your message.
- Make it all about them. Everybody loves compliments. Let them know you’re reaching out to them because they are an expert in their field or job, and that you are seeking their advice.
- Establish a good reason for connecting and a clear call to action. Make it a point to ask for a meeting for their insight on their particular field.
- In the call to action, ask for an in-person meeting, but give a back up option, such as a phone conversation as an alternative if the individual is not willing or able to meet in person.
As a general rule, you can follow up once if you do not hear back from your contact. For more on follow up, check out our resource center.
Nowhere in the email should you ask for a job, nor should you ask for one if you are able to secure a meeting.