Networking is a great way to advance your career and build meaningful relationships with those around you - even in the digital era.
However, although networking is just as important as it ever was, its mechanics have changed along with the ways we communicate with each other.
As such, instead of attending many networking events and meeting people face to face, you now also need to know a thing or two about virtual networking.
And one of the most important aspects of online networking is sending out great networking emails. In this article, we’ll teach you all you need to know to send great networking emails that get you replies.
Read on to learn:
- When to Use a Networking Email?
- How to Write a Successful Networking Email
- 3 Tips for an Effective Networking Email
- 3 Networking Email Samples
And more! So let’s dive right in!
When to Use a Networking Email?
You can use networking emails to either establish a new relationship (be it professional or personal) or to foster an existing relationship.
As such, networking emails come in handy for various situations, some of the most common ones being:
- Contacting a stranger that you only know through the Internet.
- Writing to someone that lives or works in a different state or country.
- Requesting an informal interview or a meeting, usually to gain insight into an industry.
- Following up with someone you met once before at a networking event.
- Communicating with someone you know but lost touch with.
So, there’s no one-fits-all networking email formula that you can use to network online. Instead, each networking email should be tailored to the situation, the receiver, and the results you want to get from a particular interaction.
How to Write a Successful Networking Email
Without further ado, here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a successful networking email:
#1. Do Your Research
If you’re going to send a networking email to someone you don’t know, it’s essential to spend some time researching them first.
After all, you don’t want to reach out to a stranger to ask them about their job position and experience only to find out that they aren’t working there anymore. That would fail to establish rapport and probably make you look lazy and uninterested.
Lucky for you, the internet makes it quite easy to research people and you can get some valuable information simply by doing some of the following:
- Google the person’s name. Typically, their LinkedIn profile and other relevant social media platforms will come up, along with their website (if they have one).
- Add the city they live in or the company they work for in the Google query, especially if the person has a common name or more than one result comes up when you Google them.
- Use LinkedIn or LinkedIn alternatives directly, to filter out all the non-professional information that might come up on Google.
Once you’ve done this, note down any useful information for your networking email, including the person’s company and industry, their job title and professional interests, as well as anything you might have in common.
#2. Write an Attention-Grabbing Email Subject Line
Your email subject line must be captivating if you want the recipient actually to open your networking email.
Otherwise, you may have written the best networking email out there and it’ll probably go unread if your subject line is something like “care to network?”.
Take, for example, the following subject lines:
- “Student reaching out”
- “Can I have some of your time?”
- “Can you help me with [blank]?”
- “Do you have some time to network?”
- “Would be great to connect with you”
- “Let’s exchange ideas!”
These subject lines are uninteresting to the receiver and will probably lead to an unopened email. Want to make sure your emails are opened? You should:
- Add value to your email subject line by trying to include an element that will make your email worth the receiver’s time and attention.
- Be specific and personal by personalizing your email. That way, the receiver will know the email is from someone they know - or might be interested in meeting.
Here are some examples of some on-point subject lines:
- “Aspiring writer looking for mentorship”
- “Marketing senior interested in career advice”
- “[Name of mutual connection] suggested I contact you”
- “Following up from [place where you met]”
- “Would love to exchange ideas regarding [topic]!”
Keep your email subject line brief if you want the receiver to open it! Gmail and other email providers have a character limit for your visible subject line, which means part of it won’t be visible if it goes over the character limit. Not to mention, shorter email subject lines between 4-15 characters have better open rates.
#3. Mention How You’re Similar
Nothing connects people more than their similarities - especially when they include the same hobbies, passions, or field of studies.
Think about it - are you more likely to get a cup of coffee with someone you have something in common with, or with someone you struggle to find a common ground with?
Most probably it’s the first one.
So, spare a line or two in your networking email to remind the receiver how the two are you are similar even if it’s a small similarity, like having attended the same elementary school or having the same favorite author.
The one thing you shouldn’t do is make up a fake similarity just to get the receiver to like you. If they agree to meet up and mention how awesome it is you share something in common, the truth will probably come out and make you look bad.
#4. Praise Their Work/Accomplishments
Paying an honest compliment to someone’s work can go a long way to ensuring your networking emails gets a reply!
On top of showing that you’re familiar with the person’s work, praising their accomplishments can also effectively show how it has inspired or helped you—something most seasoned professionals are more than glad to hear.
That said, it’s important the way you praise their work doesn’t come off as brown-nosing. For example, saying something like “your work is super inspiring” can come off as an empty compliment meant to sugarcoat your email.
Keeping things genuine and specific, on the other hand, can add a lot of value to your networking email and is guaranteed to make the receiver respond to your networking efforts.
To give a genuine compliment on the receiver’s work, make sure to mention something specific about it and explain how it impacted you, instead of using generalizations and unnecessary fluff.
Your book on career trends and IT industry developments inspired me and made me reconsider everything I learned about the field in college. If you’re free, I’d love it if we could hop on a call and discuss some of the ideas you mention in the book, namely the practical application of AI within the next decade.
#5. Keep It Brief
Another way to ensure your networking email actually gets read is to keep it short and sweet.
After all, the people you’ll be contacting are most probably busy people, which means their time is their most valuable asset—and they won't go around wasting it.
As such, keeping your networking email brief and to the point is essential - especially if you’re contacting someone for the first time. This is the first time they’re hearing about you, so they probably don’t want to spend too much time reading a chapter-long email.
While there’s no rule of thumb on how long a networking email should be, try to keep it between two and three paragraphs, with each paragraph not containing more than three sentences.
#6. Mention How You Can Help
In the best-case scenario, professional networking consists of a mutually beneficial relationship between two or more individuals. After all, people are going to be more predisposed to help you if they also get something in return.
Take this fact into consideration and use the body of your networking email to also mention how you can help the receiver - even if it’s something small, like offering them feedback for their work or writing a blog post about them on your website.
So, even if you feel like you have nothing to offer back - and that can be the case if you are in an entry-level position contacting, say, a seasoned professional or an academic - keep in mind that even the simplest offering can go a long way.
Oftentimes, just offering something in return for the receiver’s time and attention will show that you’re grateful for the opportunity and that you’d actually appreciate getting a response from them.
#7. Follow Up
You might follow all the instructions above to the T, write the perfect networking email, and still not get a response.
Although this may happen because the receiver just doesn’t want to network, more often than not it will be because they’re busy, or simply forgot to reply after your networking email gets buried in a sea of other emails.
As such, you must send a follow-up email and remind them that you’re looking forward to a reply and to professionally network with them.
To ensure that your follow-up doesn’t come off as disrespectful and impatient, however, do the following:
- Wait at least one week before sending your follow-up email. Doing so faster will make you come off too impatient.
- Don’t guilt-trip the receiver. Networking skills are a thing and being friendly and pleasant are definitely two of them! Most people don’t respond well to guilt-tripping - especially those who don’t even owe you a response.
- Don’t make any assumptions. Remember, it’s not your place to assume why the receiver couldn’t or didn’t want to reply to your networking email, so the last thing you want is to waste your follow-up making assumptions.
- Keep your follow-up brief and pleasant. Your follow-up email should be even shorter than the initial one! Something along the lines of “this is a quick follow-up to make sure my email didn’t end in your spam folder” is much better than an emotionally-charged email where you blame the receiver for ignoring you.
And here’s what a successful follow up email looks like:
I hope you are doing well!
I’m writing to make sure the email I sent you last week didn’t end up in your spam folder.
Thank you again for your time.
3 Tips for an Effective Networking Email
Now that you know how to write a killer networking email step-by-step, check out these simple tips to help you truly shine.
You can use them for basically any networking email you send, regardless of the specifics of the situation:
- Personalize your networking email. It doesn’t matter if your networking email is meant for someone you only met once, a childhood friend you lost touch with, or a college acquaintance. There is always a way to make your networking email personal and show the receiver they’re not just a name in the list of your networking contacts. Say, for example, that you’re writing a college acquaintance. You can establish rapport by reminding them about classes you took together, or even a good time spent at a party. A lot of things can make your email personal, as long as they’re genuine!
- Proofread before pressing send. Look, it’s very hard to justify vocab and grammar mistakes in the 21st century. With so many spellcheckers, grammar checkers, and what-have-you out there, sending a networking email with typos or obvious grammar mistakes will show that you’re rushed and unprofessional, which might harm your networking efforts more than you know. As such, make sure to double and triple-check your networking email before sending it. We recommend using Grammarly for this.
- Stay in touch. When you get down to it, the real point of networking is building long-lasting professional and personal relationships that can be of benefit in more than one case. One networking email, follow-up, or even personal meeting is not enough. To truly reap the benefits of networking, you should strive for a continuous relationship with your networking contacts. For instance, you can share with them relevant industry articles and research from time to time, or invite them to various networking events that could be of interest to them. Showing that you’re thoughtful and involved in fostering your relationship will make your networking contacts more responsive to you.
Check our guide on networking tips for a more comprehensive list of pointers that can help you network in your daily life.
3 Networking Email Samples
If you’re not the writing type, you might have trouble writing a good networking email even after all these steps and tips.
To help you out, we’ve put together three networking email samples that you can customize according to your specific needs:
#1. Networking Email Sample to Someone You Know
Subject Line: Great meeting you at ExpoCity Conference
Email Body: Hey Sarah,
This is Anna, I work as a junior architect at Spaces & Us. It was truly a pleasure to hear your thoughts about green architecture and the future of our cities regarding nature last weekend at the ExpoCity Conference.
I recall that you were interested in learning how we’re applying the same concepts you talked about in our work. Here’s last month’s newsletter on the topic - I think you’ll find it interesting.
How are things going with you and your work at the moment? I’d like to hear more about it over coffee if you have the time!
#2. Networking Email Sample to a Stranger
Subject Line: Passionate journalist looking to exchange ideas
Email Body: Hello Dean,
My name is Rea. I am an investigative journalist based in Seattle, currency working at the newspaper where you started your career - the Seattle Sun.
Your path in journalism has always been an inspiration and especially so after reading your book on investigative practices and why we need investigative journalism. Your thoughts on the latter have motivated me to continue my Master's Degree and build a career in the field.
In this regard, I would love it if we could meet up and exchange some ideas on the topic, especially on how investigative journalism is different from when you were starting. Please let me know if you have some time for coffee or tea.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
#3. Networking Email Sample for College Students
Subject Line: About your guest lecture at Northdale University
Email Body: Dear Mr. Winston,
My name is Nick Waters. I’m a senior majoring in Information Technology and Computer Science at Northdale University. I followed your guest lecture on information technologies of the future and I was taken by your perspective on the future of our career.
As it has always been a dream of mine to get into IT once I have the proper education, I was wondering if you could give me some advice on the best way to get started.
In particular, I’m very interested in hearing your personal story about how you got into the field and what you suggest I do to get a head start…
P.S. I also have a blog on IT revolutionaries and I’d love to have a short interview with you for the blog if that’s something that interests you. I have interviewed some big names in the industry so far, and I’d be honored if I could also interview you.
Networking Email - What NOT To Do
Now you know everything you need about how to send networking emails. But what about what not to do?
Here are the three most important things to avoid when sending a networking email:
- Write a long, one-fits-all email. There’s nothing worse than an impersonal networking email. Considering that emails are quite impersonal, to begin with, for your networking email you have to ensure the receiver feels appreciated if you want to reply to you - and they won’t if they feel like you’re sending the same draft email to 50 people. As such, try to add something of value for the receiver to every networking email you send.
- Assume that you and the receiver are friendly. Unless you actually are friendly with the receiver, never write a networking email where you assume the two of you are on friendly terms. Most people you network with will be seasoned professionals, experts in different fields, or otherwise accomplished individuals, which means you need to win over their attention instead of just assuming that you have it.
- Give the receiver “homework.” No one likes to feel like they’re being made to do something, specially grown adults who might not even know you. So, make sure your networking email doesn’t come off as if you’re giving the receiver a task to fulfill for you (e.g. “I’m writing to let you know that I need career advice, so if you could drop a couple of lines based on the portfolio attached here, it would be great”).
Check out these networking statistics to get a better idea of why networking is so important nowadays!
And that’s a wrap! Next time you send a networking email, you can rest assured that you’ll get a reply.
Before you go, here’s what we covered in this article:
- Networking emails help nurture existing relationships, create new ones, and catch up with people you already know but haven’t talked to in a while.
- The steps to writing a killer networking email include doing your research, mentioning what you have in common and how you can help the receiver, mentioning how you can help, writing an attention-grabbing email subject line, and keeping your email brief.
- The three most beneficial tips to writing a good networking email include personalizing your email, keeping your follow-up email brief, and not making any assumptions about why the receiver didn’t reply to your email.
- If you want your networking email not to fail, make sure not to send a one-fits-all or super-long networking email, as well as not to give the receiver “homework.”