Targeted Networking: How to Effectively Reach Out
I recently posted an article here called “Looking for Networking in All the Wrong Places.” I wrote that many job-seekers waste their time networking with people who can’t really help them. My advice was to have a target list of companies likely to have jobs you are interested in based on your industry and job function, and to focus your networking activities on reaching the decision-makers in those companies. Many people have since contacted me asking for advice on how to actually reach out to those decision-makers – so below is a proven strategy on how to do just that.
[By the way … this blog article is actually the 3rd step in a 5-step networking process. To see all 5 steps, read “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching.”]
The Two-Step Approach For Reaching Out To Your Targets
I’m assuming here that you’ve already developed your target company list, and that you’ve already identified specific people at those companies that you want to meet. I use a two-step approach. First, I send an intro email, and then a few days later I make a follow-up phone call. I will describe those steps in greater detail below … but first, consider what level of connection you have (if any) to the people you are approaching. Did someone give you their name, or did you find it online yourself – and if so, how? The absolute best level of connection is a personal referral. If you meet with someone who gives you a name in a target company and says “use my name” – then you’re golden! The higher up the food chain your referring contact is, the better your response is likely to be. The next best level of connection is a common group or association – for example, you both belong to the same LinkedIn industry-specific group or Professional Association, or you both went to the same college, etc. (By the way – joining LinkedIn Groups specific to your niche is a great way to find people on your target list!) The third level of connection is simply that you share a common industry. My two-step approach is essentially the same for all levels of connections … but the opening section would be modified according to which level of connection you are approaching.
Step One: The Intro Email
The intro email (or LinkedIn message) I send has three parts. First, the opener that describes how I know the person. Second, my short “Elevator Pitch” describing my background and career goals. And third, a request for help. The key is to be brief, complimentary, and non-aggressive. I am NOT asking for a job. Rather, I am asking for help and advice. Here’s an example of an actual email I’ve used:
Subject Line: Reaching Out – a Referral from (Full Name of Contact)
Hi (First Name):
I had coffee yesterday with a mutual friend of ours: (Full Name of Contact). (First Name) spoke very highly of you, and gave me your name and contact info, and urged me to reach out you.
I am an experienced Recruiter and B to B Account Manager. For the past 10 years I’ve had much success in the 3rd-party (independent agency) staffing world. My current focus is to use that experience to transition into an internal “Corporate Recruiter” role within a large stable company in the Cleveland-Akron area. This will allow me to concentrate on my passion for building and maintaining relationships with internal business partners, and to make more of a long-term impact within an organization. I am very interested in speaking and networking with anyone with experience in that area.
The reason I’m contacting you is that I would like to talk with you and find out more about your corporate recruiting experiences. Your help, advice and expertise would be greatly appreciated. Would you be willing to spend a few minutes with me on the phone … or even better yet, informally meet with me face-to-face at your convenience?
I’ll await your reply. Thanks.
I sign it with my name, cell phone number, and a link to my LinkedIn profile.
Notice a few things about this email. It’s brief. It starts with a compliment. It clearly says who I am, and what I’m looking for career-wise. And it clearly says what I’d like from the person I’m contacting (help, advice, expertise, and a few minutes of their time on the phone or in-person – NOT a job!!!) I’ve had a terrific response from this email. More than half of the people I’ve sent it to have responded within a day or two, and agreed to at least talk on the phone. Many invited me to meet in person. The specific feedback I got was that my email was engaging and inviting. It didn’t put people off like so many of the other requests they receive from others asking for their time.
As I mentioned before, the first paragraph should be modified according to how I got their name. It might say: “We are both members of the ‘Cleveland & NEO Corporate Recruiting Group’ on LinkedIn. I reviewed your profile (very impressive!) and I believe that we have several areas of common interest. I hope you don’t mind my reaching out to you this way.” Or it might say: “While doing a search on LinkedIn for professionals our industry, I came across your profile (very impressive!) and I believe that we have several areas of common interest. I hope you don’t mind my reaching out to you this way.” Again, each level down is less likely to get a response … but you’d be surprised at how far a simple compliment about someone’s profile will take you!
Step Two: The Phone Call Follow-up
If I don’t get a response from the above email within three days, I pick up the phone and call that person (assuming I have a number for them.) More often than not, I’ll get their voice mail – and I leave a message! My message says that I am calling to follow-up on the email I sent … and then re-states almost word for word the content of my email. I ask for a call-back, and make sure to say my call-back number twice. I don’t call again after that. If the person doesn’t respond after the two-step approach, I assume they simply don’t want to talk to me and I feel it’s best to move on. I don’t want to be a pest.
Staying in Touch with your Targets
As you keep reaching out to and meeting with more and more decision-makers (or people who can refer you to those decision-makers) your network will grow larger and larger. And it will be made up of key people in your industry who all tend to know each other and are “well-connected.” Again, the idea is to be in the right place at the right time – and more importantly to be remembered by those key people when a new and often unpublished opportunity opens up somewhere. Staying in touch with this network through regular emails or phone calls is also a critical part of making this process work. I try to send an individual follow-up email to each of my target contacts at least once a month. (Mass emails to a large list of addresses is a big no-no … send each person an individual email, and add a personal comment to each one if possible.) Follow-up emails should include any updates on your job-seeking activities, a list of every significant meeting that you’ve had since your last email, and a reminder that you are still “in transition.” It’s especially important to let a contact know if you meet with someone they specifically referred you to – and thank them profusely for that referral. [For more on the importance of following-up, read “Following-Up: An Essential Key to Success.”] This entire process is a long-term strategy that can be very time-consuming, and it may not produce quick results (i.e. a job.) It will, however, position you well for long-term success in today’s highly competitive job market.