Being treated as an expert or someone “on the inside” makes people feel really freakin’ awesome about themselves. So rather than asking for a job, ask for advice.
A couple of friends asked me recently for help crafting introductory, as part of their job search. They were looking to write to people they either didn’t know or with whom they had only a loose, one-off connection.
Both of my friends had the same uneasy tone: “Eh, I don’t know if I should write them. Isn’t it kind of random? Wouldn’t I be bothering them? I don’t know…”
I cut them off mid-worry. It’s not only perfectly fine, but a good idea to occasionally reach out to strangers in the business community. Making new friends in this surreptitious way takes a bit of strategy, but it always begins with one indisputable fact:
Most people like being asked for their advice or opinion.
Being treated as an expert or someone “on the inside” with networking powers makes people feel really freakin’ awesome about themselves. But some of those people — OK, most of them — have important jobs with hectic schedules. They want to impart all they know, but they have to do it on their time.
Let’s say you’re after a job at an accounting firm, and you have a friend who’s friends with a vice president at the company. Here’s one way to frame your email (it’s fictitious, by the way):
My name is Danny Rubin, and I’m Don Baxter’s friend. I just graduated from Big State U with a degree in business, and I’m starting my search for a job in the accounting world. I focused my studies in auditing, and I see that’s a large part of what Thompson & Company does.
I am curious if you have a few minutes to talk with me either by phone or in person. It would be great to learn more about Thompson &Company and also get a sense of other CPA firms here in town.
I’m happy to work around your schedule. If you’re willing, please let me know a day and time that works for you.
Also, I am attaching my resume to this e-mail.
Thanks in advance.
Nothing fancy. Nothing flashy. I got right down to business, but in a polite, appropriate way. I also made sure to attach my resume (no harm in that) and tell Sheryl I can meet when it works for her.
Here’s the post important piece: I’m not asking Sheryl to hire me. I’m asking to meet her. If a job opportunity arises from our conversation, great. But my initial goal is to make a new connection that could open doors for me.
What are the possible outcomes to my e-mail?
1. Sheryl never responds. My rule of thumb is to wait two full business days and then try again. If you still haven’t gotten a reply, let it go.
2. She writes back and says she’s happy to do a quick phone call. Research the firm, do a little LinkedIn digging and have some questions ready about the company and industry.
3. She agrees to meet in person, whether over lunch or at her office. Awesome. Do everything stated in #2. Then shower, brush your teeth and wear something nice.
It’s rare that a person — no matter how busy or self-important — won’t find time to sit down with a 20-something and share their knowledge. Nearly everyone loves being asked to talk about their background, expertise or connections, especially in their niche field.
We love feeling valued. It’s a defining human characteristic, and one you should leverage in the pursuit of your next great job.
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