When it’s time to find a job, you’ve heard that your network is the go-to place. But as you get ready to send out your first networking email, you notice a tiny problem. . .
You haven’t really kept up with your network very well.
You’ve been busy: your job, your family, your life.
It’s hard to keep up with people – even those you once knew quite well – when life gets in the way.
So now that you actually need something, how do you ask without seeming like the jerk you feel like?
Hey, it’s not your fault. . .
Life does get really busy for all of us, and no one is perfect.
In the unscientific study I just conducted right here at my desk,* I’d say 9 times out of 10, people will generally understand this concept and be glad to hear from you as long as you approach them in the right way.
What is the right way?
Well, we’ll get to that next, but for now, let’s just work on letting go of the guilt you might feel about not keeping up relationships, or reaching out only when you need something.
It’s a fact of life, and I have something that will help, below.
*No actual study, scientific or otherwise, was conducted in the writing of this blog. However, you may agree that the figures cited here are likely accurate nonetheless. You are welcome to conduct a study of your own and let me know the results. I would be most interested to hear them.
How To Say Hello Again In A Networking Email
One of the first things you can do is to be totally transparent.
Again, most people will appreciate it if you come right out and admit that you’ve not been good about staying in touch (the truth is they probably haven’t either), but that you’re reaching out now.
There are two great ways to handle the fact that you’re reaching out in when you need something without coming off like a dirtbag.
Reach Out Method #1
Method #1 is by letting them know that the fact that you need a job gives you a good excuse to reach out and connect with them.
You can stress the benefits of slowing down, reconnecting, catching up, and seeing what people are up to.
Only use this method if you genuinely feel this way.
For some people, only asking when they need something feels weird, but simply framing needing to use your network now “an excuse” to reconnect and slow down gives them just the “in” they need to pick up where they left off.
Reach Out Method #2
Most people like to feel helpful. When you’re not too proud to put yourself in a position of asking for help – which we all need, and which you’re technically doing when you use your network – then just name it.
Let them be the hero.
It’s a tricky balance though between seeming needy and desperate and letting them take the credit for helping you out. Make sure you don’t cross the line into needy. Once you’re there, people tend to run for the hills.
Back In The Game: The Rest Of Your Networking Email
Now you’ve said hello.
But how do you actually ask for the help you need?
There are a couple of things to remember when you’re asking for help.
When you do these things, you’ll make your networking as easy and useful as possible for everyone involved.
Networking Email Rule #1: Be Specific
The first is to make it as easy as possible for your contacts to help you. This means you should know exactly what you’re asking from them, instead of making them guess.
I’m looking for a job in marketing and I wonder if you have any leads?
I’m looking for a job as the Director of Marketing in a company with roughly 50-100 employees. Ideally, I’d love to work for a company in the Boston area in the education or technology space.
Do you have any leads or do you know anyone who I should speak to who might be able to help me?
Do you see how much more helpful that is? If someone really had to answer the first question, they would have to go back to you and ask you to be more specific, or send you everything they have that might remotely fit the bill.
Chances are, when faced with these two options in question #1, they’ll choose choice three: Ignore you.
But when you’re very specific, as in question #2, they can automatically know what might be a fit for you and send you in the right direction. Make it easy for them to give you the information you need.
Networking Email Rule #2: Keep It Short
When you open an email and you see that it’s going to take you longer than a few minutes to read, unless you’re super-excited about it, your tendency is to put it off until “later,” right?
You don’t want that to happen to your email, especially the first one someone opens.
It’s networking death.
You can always add more information or ask additional questions later.
The goal of your first email is to engage your contact in a conversation, so you must keep it short and sweet.
Say hello. Ask about them. Ask for what you need. Follow Rule #3. That’s it.
Networking Email Rule #3: Prime Them For Follow Up
Networking Email Rule #3 says, “Prime your contact for follow up.” This simply means that you must psychologically prepare the contact to hear from you again.
It could be something as simple as:
I’ll follow up with you again in a week or two with a few additional questions and thoughts as I continue my search.
This way, they’ll know to be on the lookout for an email for you – that you’re not just going away – and you’re really interested in their help.
Networking Email Rule #4: Say Thank You
This rule is so important it might be listed as rule #1. It’s basic, but you’d be surprised how much people forget to do it.
Thank people for their help, even if they don’t have anything to offer you. Their willingness to take time out of their day and think about your issues with you is a service.
And, even if they don’t know anyone or any openings now, they may in the future, so it always pays to be nice.
Networking Email Rule #5: Follow Up
The simple act of actually following up is hard enough. You’re busy, and it’s also easy to procrastinate on job search activities, especially when we worry that we’re going to have little ROI.
But, you have to follow Rule #5 and do it.
It’s the only way to network well, because the first interaction with each of your contacts will not (usually) be the one that bears fruit.
So, you’ve primed your contact for follow up because you did follow Rule #3, right?
They’re not surprised to hear from you, and they’re not wondering what you need now.
At this point they know what to expect. But, as you said in that quick statement before, you are going to keep it brief. You have “a few additional questions and thoughts” and when you do follow up, be sure that you don’t wear out your welcome.
Do what you promised here, just keep it brief.
- Maybe you’ve refined what you want to do, so you could send them an update on your job title or description.
- Maybe you’ve narrowed your target companies.
- Maybe you’ve thought more about the mission that you want your next company to stand for.
Whatever it is, just give them the information they might need in order to better assist you in finding exactly the job you want – but keep it focused.
You can keep following up with people periodically as your search evolves and also to keep yourself top of mind (because they are thinking about a billion other things besides you and your job search).
Don’t make yourself a pest, but keep yourself visible.
Eventually, if you get focused enough and talk to enough people who know enough of the right things, you will find yourself in the ideal job situation.