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The Delicate Art of the Networking Email

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Whether you’d describe yourself as introverted or extroverted, we can all use a helping hand when it comes to pulling off a successful job search through networking. And would you believe there is a tool you already use that can help you do that?

While the best networking might happen in person or through acquaintances, email can be a great way to build new relationships and spread the love online.

So here are a few tips for networking via email:

1. Spot your prey

Unlike in-person networking, email networking lets you take on one relationship at a time sans business cards. While in person, this kind of attention to detail and information-gathering could be be jarring and suspicious; using your mouse and keyboard allows you to do your research and tailor your approach in a good way to make meaningful connections.

To apply this, use the Internet and mailing lists strategically to get links, email addresses, Twitter handles and other information about the people you want to connect with. Keep an eye out for portfolios and strategies that impress you, especially ones created by people you have something in common with.

Narrow down your interest to one or two industry leaders who really speak to you, and bookmark their information.

2. Survey the landscape

Now, take time to really study the business or person you’re interested in. Analyze their presence on social media—specifically, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn—and take note of what impresses you the most about how they have built their craft. Try to answer the following questions for yourself:

  • How do they fit into the marketplace?
  • How long have they been in action?
  • What do their services consist of, and how could you help them?

This is the most important part of the process. It’s not about stalking a business and retracing its every step; it’s about taking in the whole picture so you can accurately assess where you can help. You’re essentially looking for a hole in their professional interests that you alone can fill…which leads us to step three.

3. Make your first contact

The final step in the process is to make contact. The perfect networking email will do the following:

  • Explain how you got their information.
  • Introduce yourself causally, but with pertinent details.
  • Express a sense of humor or competence in your field.
  • Offer a compliment or assistance.

Special note: don’t talk money or ask for a job in your first email! Express an interest in working together and compliment the person’s portfolio. (If you can’t think of anything to compliment, you’re networking with the wrong person!) This approach is designed for the natural situation in which you see someone’s work, like it and want to be near it, not to nag people for a job by email.

Here’s an example of a solid networking email:

Hello Ms. Sparks,

I came across your business card on the bulletin board in my favorite coffee shop, and I was struck by the diversity and sense of history in your online portfolio.

My name is Annemarie, and I am a freelance graphic designer in the Seattle, WA area with a background in substance abuse counseling. I also blog at www.myblog.com, but that’s just for fun!

I wanted to reach out and introduce myself in the event an opportunity to work together comes up. I also read this article on Forbes magazine and thought it might be interesting to you: www.interestingarticleonForbes.com.

Thank you for your time, and congratulations on your recent Historical Society award!

Sincerely,

Annemarie

Of course, if you’re not comfortable with this approach, you can always try networking on Twitter to make big things happen or looking at in-person networking in a new light. Most importantly, don’t overlook putting plenty of time into your own online portfolio so others will make an effort to network with you!

Have you ever cold-emailed someone you’d like to work with?

Sarah Greesonbach is a Content Management Specialist with a lot on the back burner (if you count LOLcats and Words with Friends). She curates and write the lifestyle and personal finance blog Life [Comma] Etc and is studying to be an Accredited Personal Financial Counselor.

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