In a day and time where we are constantly communicating, constantly updating our status and sharing and connecting online, direct communication can be intimidating. Even if it’s virtual, reaching out to someone blindly, without introduction, can be daunting.
My father always says, “the answer’s always ‘no’ unless you ask.” Meaning, there’s nothing to lose and only everything to gain when you put yourself out there. Of course, this mantra doesn’t work for everything. For example, I can ask myself “can I fly a plane,” but the answer will still be, a big, solid “no.”
So, my dear twenty-somethings preparing to be bold, be brave, and grasp 2015 by the horns, either to email that LinkedIn contact of a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who works for your dream company, or to write a letter to your favorite author just to say how much you admire them, or even to reach out to someone at work to meet for coffee to discuss an idea you had, I have some help for you.
Along with my dear cousin, who is a total pro at cold-emailing, I’ve come up with some helpful hints.
1. Before you write, think about your objective.
Is this an email to show appreciation for something the person has done or written? Then maybe you don’t expect a response. Are you trying to make a professional connection to ask for a reference, an informational interview, etc? Then leave enough open questions for them to respond.
These categories can also apply to friends/friendly acquaintances.
2. What do you know about them already?
How will you begin the email? Why are you writing? What do you have in common with them that you can immediately highlight? Details are important.
It’s what helps us connect to a greater community, and helps us link the significance of something to our own being. It also helps us recall, for example, if you are writing to someone you met two years ago and you mention a funny story or moment, it’s much easier for the recipient to pull you up to the front page of their memory-rolodex.
3. What is the unique reason you are writing?
Choose a specific thing that has compelled you to write. Get to that point quickly, and clearly.
Pro-tip: Make your subject line specific and detailed. In the most succinct way possible, say why you are emailing them.
4. Maintain structure.
Opening: Introduce yourself, what is your connection to each other? Consider including a compliment, if appropriate.
Middle: The unique thing that has compelled you to write (AKA the main reason you are reaching out to them).
Closing: Express your gratitude and indicate whether a response is expected. End with “Hope to hear from you soon” if nothing else is appropriate.
5. Proofread, and pay attention to punctuation.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but a simple typo can seem careless, and the wrong use of “there” is just inexcusable. I struggle with affect vs. effect and no matter how many times it has been explained to me, I still can’t keep it straight, so I Google it every time I use it just to make sure I really do have the correct usage.
Punctuation is important with emails because it helps us convey a tone that you would normal portray in person with your voice and your expression.
Exclamation points are great, but a little can go a long way. If you end every sentence with an exclamation point, you may not be taken seriously, even if you are very excited or passionate about the subject matter.
6. Take a deep breath, hit “send.” Exhale.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone, because more often than not, the person your reaching out to will appreciate the gesture, if nothing else. Accept that what your sending may not get a response, and don’t expect one. If you receive a reply, take it in stride and go from there. Don’t plan out the entire conversation before you’ve written the first word. That’s only setting yourself up for disappointment.
Are you a pro at cold emailing? How do you do it?