Here’s a fun fact about Steve Jobs:
At 12, Jobs wanted to build a frequency counter, but he didn’t have the parts. Ever sensible, he suspected that Bill Hewlett, then the CEO of HP, might have some extras. And so, with the bizarre confidence of an eighth grader, he found Hewlett’s number in the telephone book and called it.
He got the parts… and a job. The rest is history.
The point? To get something in life, you have to ask for it.
“Most people don’t get those experiences because they never ask. I’ve never found anyone that didn’t want to help me if I asked them for help. Most people never ask, and sometimes that’s what separates the people that do things from the people that just dream about them.” (source)
I’ve found his words to be profoundly true. I’ve had the audacity to reach out to some pretty cool people…and get responses. For example, I scored an email from Drumpf’s HR Director after emailing Kellyanne Conway. I’ve gotten a response from Matt Cutts! And I’ve persuaded bestselling authors who I didn’t know into mentoring/being friends with me…all because I had access to that wonder of wonders, Gmail.
Even when I don’t get responses, I’m still winning because some of these people will still open and click the links in my emails a multitude of times (I track emails). So, the way I look at is: at least they are aware of me/my work now. That’s a win in my book, especially because of a little something known as the familiarity effect—a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with or regularly exposed to them.
Email is the new telephone book.
It is insanely easy to find anyone’s email today, and one email can quite literally change your life.
The bad news is that anyone can do this, and it’s starting to become mainstream. More and more people are figuring out how easy it is to email anyone they want to email, which is why the average professional receives 80 emails per day. In other words, the clock is ticking—start sending really good emails before it’s too late. The time to get what you want is now.
In less than 10 minutes, you’ll learn how to write game-changing emails that get you everything you want—except maybe a bae. I’m not good at those types of emails. Sorry!
Tip 1: Make a list of people you want to contact.
For this step, think big.
Who can help you land work?
Who could give you a glowing recommendation?
Is there someone from your past you’d like to connect with again?
It’s okay to include people you simply want to say hello to in order to keep your relationship fresh.
Rekindling old relationships is a great way to network that doesn’t feel forced or awkward.
Perhaps you want to interview them for a guest post or ask their advice about something.
Make a long list and continuously add to it as you think of people.
Just because someone is on your list doesn’t mean you have to immediately email them. It simply means they’re on your radar.
What you shouldn’t do is contact a bunch of random people one time and then give up.
You’re starting conversations when you reach out via email. Even as you continue old conversations, make it a habit to keep reaching out to new contacts.
This habit will serve you very well as you build your career.
Tip 2: Write an email for one person only.
It’s okay to use an email template (keep reading for some great ones below), but don’t be overly generic. Your message will have more energy, charm, and sincerity if it’s crafted specifically for one specific person.
Think of it this way: Imagine you’re at a party. Instead of approaching the one person you’ve really been dying to speak with, you stand in the middle of the room and start shouting and repeating the same sentence over and over again to see who will come over and engage with you.
Which behavior do you think would work better for connecting with another human being? It’s not rocket science! Obviously use the first approach when it comes to email as well. Remember, you’re starting a conversation, not putting up a billboard.
Tip 3: Be brief.
Don’t write huge walls of text, and don’t try to be fancy.
Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, says the key to good writing is to keep things simple. Hook the reader with your first sentence. Make your reader curious.
Rewrite your email as many times as it takes to get it right.
The people you’re emailing are busy, so cut out adverbs and keep your sentences short. Make your point at the beginning so your reader doesn’t have to skim an entire page of text to figure out what you want.
Break up paragraphs into one or two sentences, use bullet points, and don’t be afraid to include bold text.
Do a final edit and see if you can reduce the overall length of your email. Eliminate “filler” words like “amazing,” “that,” “definitely,” and “literally.”
Try to keep the length of your email under 125 words.
Tip 4: Use templates.
When you use templates, there’s less room for error. Someone else has already done the thinking for you. Just be sure to tailor your message before you send it—because you want to stand out from the crowd, right?
Here are some great templates for a range of different purposes.
Asking for a meeting:
Subject: [something you have in common]—would love to chat about [the thing you want to chat about]
Hi [first name],
My name is [your name]. I’m a [year] grad from [school], and I came across your name on [LinkedIn, or your alumni site, or via an organization you have in common.]
I’d love to [say what you want].
Many people have told me that if I’m interested in [thing you are interested in], I have to talk to someone at [your recipient’s company or industry]. Do you think I could ask you about [specific thing]?
I can meet you for coffee or at your office or wherever it’s convenient.
Would it be possible?
[your first name]
[Adapted from source]
Thanking someone after an interview:
Hi [Interviewer Name],
Thank you so much for meeting with me today. It was such a pleasure to learn more about the team and position, and I’m very excited about the opportunity to join [company name] and help [bring in new clients / develop world-class content / anything else awesome you would be doing].
I look forward to hearing from you about the next steps in the hiring process. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can provide additional information.
[Adapted from source.]
Asking for help finding a job:
Hi [first name],
I hope all is well!
As you may know, I have been at my current position as [position] for almost [X] years. I have recently decided to look for a new challenge in the [field you’re interested in] and am reaching out to you to ask for your help with any leads or contacts.
I am looking for a position in [city], ideally in the [X] industry. I am particularly interested in [specific niche or type of position you seek].
If you know of any job opportunities or leads that you might be able to share with me, please send them my way. I have also attached my resume; feel free to pass it along.
Thanks in advance for your help! I hope to catch up with you in person soon.
[your first name]
[Adapted from source.]
Tip 5: Be professional.
Address people properly. Don’t use too many acronyms and avoid jargon.
Wait to type in the email address until after you’ve edited, proofread, and checked the message again one last time. If you type it in first, chances are very good you’ll accidentally hit “send” before you’re done crafting your message. While everyone has probably done this at least once, it’s not a great way to make a first impression.
Use exclamation points sparingly.
- Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, once said that using an exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke. Very few people can pull off that habit with charm.
One good way to ensure you aren’t emailing too many people—which, let’s be honest, is just spamming—is, again, to email one specific person at a time with a personalized message tailored to them. This helps you avoid sending an email to the wrong person.
Here is a great template for prospecting from warm email master Ed Gandia:
SUBJECT LINE: [Meaningful Connection]
BODY: [CONNECTION EXPANDED]
This can be a person or event you both know or attended. It can be something on the person’s website you responded to.
This short section explains who you are, what you offer, and why you are different from others.
This should be a link to your portfolio, recent work, or a list of recent clients.
[INVITATION TO CONNECT]
This could be an invitation to connect on a platform like LinkedIn or have a call.
[Adapted from source.]
Here’s another option for this purpose:
Point out something you’ve recently learned about the person you are emailing and quickly explain how you can address the challenge they are facing in a unique way.
“I read __________________.
I did some research and found ___________________.
I am writing because I do __________________ for _________________.
I can help you by ____________________.
[ALTERNATE: I have some ideas on how you could___________________.]
Here’s a link to my work ________________.
Would you be interested in chatting more?”
[Adapted from source.]
Notice this email template includes just ONE “ask.” If your message has multiple or unclear asks, it will get zero results for you.
Tip 6: Optimize your subject line.
Don’t try to trick people with your subject line. If you were sending directions to your apartment to a friend over email, you’d probably put “directions to my place” in the subject line. You would not put “Re: Sorry I missed you last week.”
The same thing goes for emailing people you don’t know as well.
Here’s what people are interested in: themselves and their own problems—or the problems they have to solve at work. This isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s just a fact, and it’s something you can use to your advantage when you’re trying to grow your network or professional opportunities via email.
Either offer value by piquing their interest in the subject line with a question or some new information they actually need, or create a subject line that is accurate and to the point. Here are some examples of direct and natural subject lines:
Growing your list
Your marketing collateral
Here are some longer examples with high open rates:
NEW: 13 email marketing trends you must know
Before you write another blog post, read this
Why it’s time to rethink Black Friday
You can try the “lessons email” subject line:
Formula: [Number] Lessons [I/We] Learned by [Action You Took]
Example: 6 Lessons I Learned by Meditating Every Morning
Or the “how they did it” subject line:
Formula: How Lessons [I/We] Learned [Action You Took]
Example: How 7 bloggers grew their sites from 0-5K visitors
Craft your subject line after you write the body of your message to best reflect what your email is about.
Tip 7: Send your message at the right time.
Timing is everything, and it even matters when it comes to your email strategy.
According to Yesware’s recent analysis of over a half million sales emails, open and reply rates for emails are higher on the weekends. Yes, you read that correctly: weekends.
During the weekend, the reply rate was 45.8%. On weekdays? Only 39.1%.
The reason is there’s less competition for your recipient’s attention on weekends. Therefore, your email is more likely to get read. For the same reason, the best time to send an email is in the early morning (think 6 or 7 AM) or evening (8 PM).
During these time periods, reply rates are again around 45%.
Tip 8: Track your emails.
Yesware reports email opens, link clicks, and file attachment downloads for a fee of $12 per month. Instead of blindly guessing whether or not you should follow up with a particular person, you’ll be armed with great information about whether they’ve even read your message.
This service also has a template feature. If you are applying to jobs, for example, you can save a lot of time by starting with a template and personalizing it.
Time to expand your network.
It’s true. One really well-written email can change your life.
Keep the following takeaways in mind, and you’ll be on your way to getting everything you want professionally in no time.
- Create a list of people you want to connect with.
- Personalize every email.
- Be brief.
- Use templates to streamline.
- Be professional.
- Optimize your subject line.
- Send your emails at the best time.
- Track everything.