If you’ve had a professional conference or networking mixer canceled recently, it’s either been converted into a digital event or postponed indefinitely. As shelter-in-place advisories continue, you’ll need to lean into your writing skills to create your own online networking opportunities.
Whether you’re preparing a cold introductory email to an esteemed industry expert or direct-messaging a secondary LinkedIn contact for a job referral at their company, there are a few tips to remember.
Personalize the subject line
When you don’t have an existing relationship with the recipient, an attention-grabbing subject line can avoid having your message deleted outright. This means avoiding vague or spammy subject lines, like “Hi”, “Question for you”, or “I would love to connect”.
A strong subject line is short but personal. This is a good place to insert something timely and relevant to the recipient.
Example: “I finished your latest book in one sitting”
This subject line is relevant to the recipient and shows that you’re familiar with their work. By highlighting a detail about the recipient, there’s a greater chance they’ll open your message to read what you have to say.
If you’re reaching out to another professional, you’ve likely identified that they have something of value to you. This person either has clout in your shared industry, has achieved a goal that you’re working toward, or might have a network of peers to direct you to. No matter how you arrived at this person, they’re likely important enough to be busy.
When writing a cold introduction email, for example, avoid unnecessary flourishes and fluff and get to the point. The email should be 3-4 short paragraphs.
Keep the email body organized
1 What about them or their work compelled you to reach out
2 Commonalities you have with them
3 Why you’re contacting them
4 A specific ask
When writing, avoid the ultimate email pitfall: a blocky wall of text. Keep each paragraph at three sentences or less so your message smoothly guides the recipient to your final question.
Focus on a small ask
It’s important to end your email or direct message with a question. However, in professional networking, it’s equally important to avoid asking for too much up front.
This is not the appropriate time to ask for a job, for example. It’s best to avoid language, like “Are you hiring? I’m looking for a job and would appreciate an interview.” Build rapport with the recipient first.
Start with a small ask, like asking if they’re willing to offer advice or insight about a common industry. Let’s say you’re reaching out to an unknown contact on LinkedIn about a job posting at their company. It might be prudent to ask about their experience working at the company before asking them to refer you to the hiring manager.
Networking through writing is a lot like in-person networking. Developing a genuine relationship that’s based on authenticity and respect for the other person’s time produces better results.