The good and bad ways to request a networking meeting
By Nancy Collamer, Next avenue
As someone who writes frequently about careers, I am all for networking. But even I am frustrated by the number of otherwise knowledgeable professionals asking for my advice by requesting a networking meeting the wrong way round. You know those vague “Can I Pick Your Brain” emails?
It’s unfortunate, because when I get a compelling, carefully crafted email or LinkedIn post, I’m inclined to help. It doesn’t mean that I accept all networking meeting request. But when I can, I like to at least respond with some advice.
Admittedly, asking for a networking meeting can seem disgusting and embarrassing, especially when you are trying to connect cold contacts – people you don’t yet have a relationship with. It’s hard to know what to put in the email subject line, what details about your journey to include, and how much time to request for a meeting, call, or video chat.
The Goofus and Gallant approach to networking
Fortunately, whether your goal is to find a job or start a business, mastering the “art of asking” is a learned skill. Shortly, I’ll be sharing some tips from a networking expert to help you do just that.
Hope you have a good week. I am a coach and I would like to discuss your programs with you. Do you have a few minutes tomorrow, Friday or Monday? Thank you Cathy
Cathy’s note needs a little work. She didn’t include any convincing details about her background, beyond being identified as a coach. And her request to speak “tomorrow, Friday or Monday” didn’t give me enough time to respond (and guess I have little else on my schedule). If she had just added, “If that doesn’t work, tell me if there is a better time for you in the next few weeks” it would have been better perceived and I would have been more inclined. to talk to her.
Here is a second email, also from a trainer, who made lead to a meeting:
I found your information while reading your blog post on Barbara Sher. I was also a huge admirer of her and even dined with her in 1990 when she performed in Denver. I recently completed my retired coaching education and am in the process of transitioning from my 30+ year clinical practice into these endeavors. If you have about 15 minutes for a quick call, I would love to have the opportunity to speak with you about your trip. Looking forward to connecting with you.
Why the second approach is more effective
Why did the second email catch my eye, while the first fell flat? Three reasons:
- The writer immediately established a point of common interest in career expert Barbara Sher. She clearly did her homework and I appreciate that she referenced my article (yes, flattery can work).
- She piqued my interest with some key details about her professional background and education. Note that she did not refer to paragraphs or attached resumes; she only used one clever sentence to make her point.
- His request for a 15 minute conversation was respectful and actionable (a request of up to 20 minutes is appropriate, I believe).
We ended up talking for almost an hour, but it was my choice. As these examples show, when it comes to network meeting emails, every word counts. So, to help you find more useful presentations, I contacted Rebecca Leder. She is a Denver-based consultant and author of the new book “KNOCK: How to Open Doors and Build Careers That Matter”.
4 tips for requesting a networking meeting
Here are his top four tips:
1. Warm up! Do your research to make your emails personal and recipient specific before you hit send. By doing your homework, it will be easier to convey why you are aiming this opportunity and this anybody.
Give the recipient a reason to care to talk to you: Why are you contacting them? How can you help each other? What impact could you have if you team up? Think about ways to make your note more familiar. Remember: if this looks like a cold email, you are not ready to send it.
2. Predetermine common ground. Find something that connects you both before reach out, then highlight it. Did mutual contact allow you to discover the company? Do you resonate with their ideas shared on social media platforms? Are you both trying to tackle similar issues?
By highlighting your common interests, you will feel more familiar with the person you hope to speak with and reduce their propensity to decline your request.
3. Write a concise, yet descriptive subject line. Use one that highlights the impact the other person or business has had on you. Or something specific about their work that you enjoy. Focus on value, impact or appreciation. For example: “Your article on employee well-being opened my eyes”.
Another effective option is to refer to a common contact or connection, such as “Referred by Mary Miller” or “A fellow from the State of Ohio seeks your advice.”
4. Make it easy for them to connect. When requesting a brief window of time, indicate the possible options in their time zone and offer a few choices. This will help avoid the irritating back and forth to find a suitable time for both of you.
One final tip from me: after your networking meeting, express your thanks. It is the polite thing to do. Well done, a carefully crafted thank you note can lead to more networking meetings, referrals, and ultimately new opportunities.