Growing your professional network is an essential part of finding a job and advancing your career. The Internet makes this easier by allowing you to expand your reach beyond your typical contacts. Reaching out to people you aren't directly acquainted with, whether they are hiring managers or simply contemporaries working in your industry, can be a tricky and sometimes awkward situation. However, the reality is that "cold calling" or "cold emailing," when handled correctly, can be a useful part of building your network.
Here are some tips for mastering networking with strangers.
Find the missing link
You've probably heard the popular theory of "six degrees of separation," which suggests that every individual is six or fewer steps, by way of introduction, from any other individual. Your best bet to get a hiring manager's attention is to be introduced or recommended by a mutual acquaintance. Hiring managers may ignore cold calls or emails if there's no mention of a specific connection that led the job seeker to them. Familiarize your contacts with your elevator pitch to help them introduce you around at networking events, and don't forget to return the favor when the opportunity arises.
If you can't find a direct link, it is essential that you have a good reason for asking for the contact's time and that you are upfront about this reason from the start. Be specific about why you're reaching out to this individual in particular. Are you familiar with his work? Were you both at a networking event but missed the opportunity to connect? Or are you simply looking for job opportunities or career advice? Know what you're looking for before you dial or hit "send."
What else can they offer?
Typically, when building your network, it's not a good idea to bluntly ask strangers for a job. If they say no, which they likely will, the relationship ends there, and you may as well remove them from your network. Rather than asking for a job outright, try fostering a connection by asking for advice or an informational interview. Not only are hiring managers more likely to respond positively to this request, but you build a stronger relationship and gain valuable information in the process.
Keep it short
Make it easy for the hiring manager you contact to help you. Your email should be short and concise, clearly spelling out your situation and the relevant information. A lengthy, wordy email with big blocks of text is unlikely to be read, much less thoughtfully considered and responded to. Respect your contact's time and keep the initial introduction brief.
Emailing or calling a person out of the blue can be scary, but if done right, it can also help your job search and career. Follow these tips, remain respectful, and soon you'll start to see your professional network and employment prospects grow.