Networking is an essential part of career growth, but it can also be scary. People are busier than ever, so you may feel that you’re a burden when you try to connect with another industry professional. If you’re looking to get some advice via e-mail from someone whom you admire, consider the following tips:
Keep it short
Have you ever opened an e-mail that went on for five paragraphs? The chances that you got through the whole thing are slim. Regardless of how important the e-mail is or how valid your questions are, you need to keep it brief. Keep it to just a few paragraphs. This way you’re not asking this busy professional to take half an hour to sort through your e-mail, but you still get to ask your questions.
Give them some context
Many people are glad to help, but benefit from some information about exactly who you are and what you’re looking for. Instead of launching into a whole series of questions right off the bat, use a sentence or two to explain who you are, what you do, and how you know the person. If you went to the same college, tell them that. If you’re from the same town, make that known. If you’re hoping to work for their company one day, state that. E-mails without any sort of context are much more likely to get ignored than those that create a frame of reference for the recipient.
Explain what it is that you want
Even if the person just skims your e-mail, they should be able to figure out what you want from them. Do you want answers to questions? Do you want them to read your work? Do you want them to tell you how they got to where they are today? Don’t make the e-mail a guessing game. Politely make your request known early on. Even if it seems obvious, it’s still smart to spell it out.
Remember, this person is taking time out of their day to assist you, free of charge. For this reason, you should express plenty of gratitude in the e-mail. Just because they went to the same college or know your cousin, they have no obligation to assist. Be gracious, thank them for their time, and acknowledge their busy schedule. When you show that you’re respectful of this individual’s time, it’s much more likely that you’ll get a response to your message.
Don’t ask obvious questions
When you get someone’s time, you want to make sure you use it wisely. Never ask questions that you could quickly find the answer to on Google. This is a waste of time for everyone involved, and may cause the other person to get frustrated and ignore the message. Ask questions that are well thought out, relevant to that person as an individual, and not easily answered by doing a little research. You want to show that you’ve taken time to do the background work, and are now looking for more details.