During a recent resume critique, one of my clients told me about his networking efforts. He was proactive and went knocking on a company’s door; as a result, something promising was now in the works.
Not that he literally knocked on the company’s door, although that is a viable option. Instead, this client had sent a networking email to one of the directors at the company. He asked for a networking meeting, which then lead to further discussions.
It’s key that the client called this a “networking meeting” instead of an “informational interview.” The word “interview” can turn contacts off. Instead of asking for an interview of any kind, it’s best to indicate you’re looking for advice. People will be much more receptive.
A cold call would work just as well as an email, though many people prefer the latter. That’s fine, but remember: There is more to a networking email than simply asking someone to meet with you.
Here are the four components of a successful networking email:
1. Research the Company
Before sending an email, research the company and your contact. That way, you can write intelligently about why you’d like to set up a meeting. Be sure to write highly of the company, as that will show your enthusiasm.
Visit the company’s website, read relevant articles online, and use other methods to research the company. You want to really impress the recipient, which you can only do if you know what you’re talking about.
You should only send networking emails to people at companies for which you’d like to work. If you’re not sure you want to work somewhere, don’t email a contact who works there. You are taking your job search into your own hands here. You need to stay focused on the goal.
2. Share Your Accomplishments
After writing thoughtfully – and positively – about the company and why you’d like to meet with this person, you’ll want to show off a little. Why should this person want to meet with you?
For example, let’s say you’re trying to get a marketing manager to meet with you. As a marketing specialist, you authored press releases that drew much positive attention, spearheaded a social media campaign, and organized numerous trade shows – all of which garnered new business for your previous employer. These are exactly the kind of accomplishments you want to share: ones that show how you have contributed to past companies’ successes and how you can do the same for future employers.
This part of your email should be briefer than the part about the company. You don’t want to come across as a braggart.
3. Set Expectations for Follow Up
Indicate in your networking email that you will call the recipient. Set a date and exact time for this follow-up. When you put something in writing, you’re more likely to follow through on it. Even if being so direct is not your style, it’s a good idea to step outside your comfort zone here.
4. Follow Up
The only thing left to do is pick up the phone at your set time. Be ready to explain why you’d like to meet with your potential contact. Even if you covered this in the email, your contact may be looking for more information.
Tell your contact that you can meet at their convenience. Your discussion doesn’t need to happen over coffee or dinner. You could meet in their office, or merely talk over the phone.
Note: While follow-up is critical, it’s important not to stalk your potential contacts. Two or three follow-up emails or phone calls is all you need. Any more could be off-putting.
What follows your call could be a networking meeting, or if your timing is good, there may even be an open position ready for you.
The networking email is a great tool, and it worked like magic for my client. Be sure to follow these four steps when sending your networking email to the companies for which you want to work. You will probably experience the same success my client did.
One final important note: Don’t send networking emails to HR. Rather, send them hiring managers or higher-level staff members. HR’s purpose is to screen candidates applying for advertised positions. Your networking email will most likely be deleted if it lands in HR’s inbox.
A version of this article originally appeared on Things Career Related.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.