April 2, 2015

Networking Advice: How to Get Your Emails Read

By: Peter Redpath

Young hand drawing email in a whiteboard.One of the trickiest things networkers have to contend with is getting their emails or letters to actually be read by their target. We’ve all heard the joke about cover letters and resumes ending up in the dreaded “circular file,” and unfortunately that circular file is very much a reality. So how do you make sure your email or letter isn’t deleted or tossed away?

The most effective way to get an email read is to do one simple thing. Name drop the right way! And this is done by dropping the name of someone your target is connected to in the subject line of the email. So for example, “Joseph Smith referral” in the subject line of your introduction email. I’m going to read that email if I’m friends with Joseph Smith (and even more so, if I’m Mormon.) Let’s suppose I’m not close friends with Joseph Smith, but I know him professionally.

Well, I still don’t want to disrespect him by not responding to a connection of his. Washington, DC is a small town after all! This simple subject line name-dropping trick increases the likelihood of a response significantly. In the body of your email, you should write about how Joseph suggested you two meet to discuss opportunities in the conservative movement in the DC-area or an interesting research project that you’ve been working on that pertains to your target’s line of work.

Apply the same principle with cover letters. The strongest way to begin a cover letter is with the following language: “Joseph Smith suggested I apply for the Assistant Director position at The Federalist Society.” That will hopefully trigger the following response: “Oh, Joe suggested you apply? This guy might be good. Let me take a look. Joe’s never steered us the wrong way in the past. Let’s see what this resume looks like…”

And since you’re sending out that Every Other Friday Email (EOFE),  your network is tipping you off about networking prospects you should contact. And when your contacts share those names with you, you need to follow up with each and every one of them, and you need to do so immediately! After you’ve met with or spoken to each networking prospect, be sure to thank your referring contact and let him know how the meeting went.

I want to re-emphasize this point. If anyone is willing to share a lead with you, you must follow up immediately, even if you’re not interested in what the networking prospect does for a living and even if you’re not interested in working for the organization they work for. Why?! Because someone generously opened up their world of contacts to you and the least you can do is follow up. Everyone in DC is constantly asked for networking leads and if someone shares a name with you, consider it a high compliment.

Let’s say Jim opens up his “rolodex” for Suzy Flake. This simple action is actually a statement: “I trust you to not make me look bad by sharing my contacts with you.” And it makes Jim look bad if he has called his friend Melissa and told her that she’ll be hearing from this recent graduate, Suzy Flake, who’s looking to do Public Relations work in the Washington, DC area. A month later if Jim runs into Melissa at a reception, and she tells Jim that Miss Flake never contacted her, that makes Jim not take Suzy or her job search very seriously and she’s likely burned a bridge with Jim.

If Suzy can’t follow through on what should be the most important thing to her, why should anyone think she’s going to be any less flaky on the job? Additionally, Melissa may have known people who could have helped Suzy and now Jim isn’t going to look out anymore for Suzy since she’s obviously not proactive. So remember, don’t be a Flake! Name drop the right way and follow up with every networking prospect sent to you.

Next week, the two most underutilized networking tools in the conservative/libertarian movement…


Peter Redpath is Vice President and Director of the Student Division at the Federalist Society. This is the sixth reprint in a series, based on his remarks at the AFF Networking Lunch in November 2012.