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A lot of college students have a similar, despairing outlook on reaching out to influential professionals. They figure a person with 10-20 years of experience would never be interested in talking to them. So, they decide not to do anything.
That’s a major mistake. There are plenty of professionals who enjoy sharing advice with younger generations. But there are right ways and wrong ways to reach out to them.
Here’s some advice for contacting a professional—and making a connection that lasts.
1. Do Your Research
Everyone has hooks. There are things that draw us in and get our attention. Think of your outreach email as a sales exercise. To increase your chances of getting a response, you have to know which hook to use.
That requires research.
You need to understand people’s backgrounds and story before reaching out to them. You want to find out what motivates them.
This creates a sense of affinity between you and the person you’re contacting. Maybe they went to the same school as you, or they’re from the same state. Maybe you both had the same major. Your research will help you find the hook to lure them in after opening your email.
2. Format Emails Correctly
Short and sweet.
That should be your mantra as you write these emails. Because many of these people would probably love to talk to you, but they’re busy. Really busy. Don’t send them an essay about your background, your ambitions, your hopes and dreams. They don’t have time for that.
Don’t overthink it. Send them two short, targeted paragraphs.
Briefly introduce yourself. Include key points about who you are. If you’re still in college, tell them where you attend, what your major is, or what your interests are. Try to find a way to relate.
This is the ‘ask’—be specific about what you want. If you have something to offer them, include it. But otherwise, you’re probably just asking for career advice or tips about building your skill set.
Keep your ask short. Say: “I’d love to get 15 minutes of your time. Do you have time for a quick call?” If you live in the same city, try asking to meet with them. But initially, you probably want to stick with a call, because they don’t know who you are yet.
Here’s a visual to get you thinking.
3. Don’t Cut And Paste
For any outreach, always choose quality over quantity. It’s better to send out five unique emails to people you really admire than to send 200 formatted emails to random people in your field.
You don’t want your email to sound too generic. You’re sending it to someone who probably gets tons of spam emails, cold sales emails, and other junk. They recognize (and ignore) formatted emails with a quick name swap.
Demonstrate you have passion and curiosity about what they do. Mention work that they’ve done, or even something that you’ve done to show how interested you are. That’s what will get a response.
4. Follow Up
So, you did everything right. You followed each tip and still didn’t get anything back. Don’t immediately give up. Young people tend to feel like they’re intruding on these professionals’ time. The reality is, they’re busy.
Send another email. Not right away, but a few days later. Don’t be afraid to send three, four, even five polite emails. The worst that can happen is they send you one back that says, “Sorry, I don’t have time. I’m not interested.”
But there’s a good chance you’ll get something back if you persist. You’d be surprised at what persistence does. And, unfortunately, not many students learn this in college. Having persistence can go a long way in your career. I have plenty of friends who put in extra effort to contact people, and they got top jobs coming out of college.
5. Know Where To Begin
This one is easy. Make a list of the top 20 people you want to connect with. Then email ten of them, but make sure you do in-depth research first. Wait a few days to see if you get responses. Then, move forward with trying again or trying other people on your list.
Pace yourself. Have someone look over your drafts and give feedback. Make sure those first emails are high-quality. If you’re not getting anything back after a few weeks, then maybe it’s time to get feedback from awho can help you examine what you’re sending out.
But if you keep these tips in mind, you should have a very good chance of hearing back from the people you contact.