Don’t worry email isn’t dead or even old-fashioned yet, whatever the naysayers might be predicting. Social media might be taking over as ice-breakers, but the email is not only holding its own, it is also the strongest prong of the trident when it comes to having a handshake with someone who matters on the Web. Very few people in fact master the art of emailing. My colleague Joshua called it email sending anxiety. It is a very real thing and surprising, because all it takes are a few precisely paced tips to email efficiently.
Sending professional emails gives an intangible boost to your online (and offline) reputation. The ultimate yardstick of artful emailing is if you can bag a job or land a gig with just an impressive email. Or I would say, even if you can score an interview and get your foot inside the door. If your career progress is at stake, it’s time you learnt a few of the basic emailing tips that could even the odds for a career breakthrough.
Writing a Good Email Is Now a Basic Life Skill
It is something that still has to be learnt. In the professional world, a badly written email could be hara-kiri because many a time it serves as the first point of contact. Remember, your email has to go against other emails in crowded inbox each just a mouse click away from the trash-can. Cold-emailing is just as difficult as cold-calling – you have the first five seconds to create an impression. But it can be done if you get a few basics right. Here are ten of those.
Do Your Research. Even before you type in the first name in the address field, you need to know at least something about the person you are mailing to. Thankfully, running a job research online is one of the easiest things nowadays though it is time intensive. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are good starting points as always for some career related research. We saw earlier how a well-maintained LinkedIn profile can be useful as a professional relationship management tool.
You should also establish whether the person you are emailing is in a position to give you a leg up in your career or at the very least can be an influencer. You also might try researching any fallback positions. For instance, an internship or a freelance project that could be a fit even if the primary job passes you by.
Add the Personal Touch
Never Mass Email. Just like sending out carpet bombing your industry with template based resumes is a bad idea, so is the idea of sending out generic emails. You have to treat each email as a laser guided precision delivery device. This is where research helps in finding out not only the name of the individual you would be addressing to, but also their status in the hierarchy. Don’t forget to add the right salutation. A memorable way to add a personal touch is to find a common ground with the recipient. It could be common course you took or as we will see in another point below, a common acquaintance.
Also, when it’s a career related email, create a professional looking email account if you don’t have one already; preferably with your full name.
Respect Time. Yours as well as the busy person you are sending the email to. The art of email gives top priority to the art of brevity. Telling your personal story with economy is the right approach when dealing with short attention spans. Usually, on a busy morning we scan our emails instead of reading them. A long email could be put-off for later and forgotten or simply junked.
A tip: revise your email repeatedly till you have managed to squeeze out every trivial bit of information. When you have cut out all the wasted words, your request becomes clear and specific.
Establish Connection and Context
The first email is an introduction. Like all introductions, it carries weight if you can use a referral or drop a name to establish a connection. As mentioned before, it also adds the personal touch. The best way to grab a job is to establish a relationship and it could start here if you can pivot someone’s reference in the email. It could be someone experienced who advised you on that particular industry. If you don’t have a name to use as a reference, mention how you found the person whom you are emailing. Maybe, you met them somewhere or read about their work and achievements. Even better – maybe, you share the same alma mater. The main purpose is to establish the reason why you are trying to connect and how the connection holds value for you.
This is the hook which if pulled off can add value to your candidature for the job. This is the most difficult part for a fresher who does not have a platform yet. An experienced professional can use the research and find where he can make a difference. A single line mention could be an attention grabber. I got my second job by mentioning a newspaper report that the particular company was looking to expand in an area, and I had some market feedback from there. A newbie can mention the background work he or she has done to become better acquainted with the work the company does. He or she can offer ideas. It may not be in there scheme of things, but it does show that you are emotionally invested in their work. But again, keep it succinct and subtle.
Flattery Will Get You There
Don’t overdo it. Keep your compliments sincere and specific. Asking for advice instead of help always helps. Treat the email as a request for information rather than a job cover letter. Usually, people are willing to part with advice and information rather than something more substantial like an interview call. At least, with the first email you have taken a first tiny step towards your career goal.
Remember Your Objective
This first email is just a friendly handshake. It is not meant to be a resume carrier (yes, never attach your resume), so don’t jump the gun. The best thing you can hope for is a positive response that will lead to the next email. Sending a resume is a red-alert and cancels out the enthusiastic things you might have written in the email. The recipient may think that the email is just a lure for a job. There are other channels (like the HR department) for sending resumes.
Ask For a Referral
The best thing you can gain out of a blind alley conversation is a reference to someone else who might be of help. Always ask for a referral as the recipient may not be able to help you but it’s possible that someone he or she knows can help you out.
A Good Ending
This could be a new beginning if the email strikes the right notes. Just as you begin, it is also important to close well. Paying attention to your email signature is also important because at a single glance it can tell the recipient a lot about you and your attention to detail. End your emails with the right valediction. More importantly, end with a call to action like a specific request.
A follow up email not only serves as a reminder but also projects your intent. It also helps you know if your email had the desired impact or got junked. Whether meeting in person for the first time or just emailing a stranger, a follow up email separates you from the rest of the business cards and helps with recall. Keep it concise.
The thumb-rule behind all the basic steps is to keep the communication going. Your objective is to take the exchange of emails beyond the first one, so that you can successfully break through the “stranger-wall” and network professionally. Even if you don’t succeed, don’t delete the contact because you never know when another window opens up. Writing amazing emails is a matter of persistence as much it is about sticking to some core rules. I have had my own shares of successes and failures. It is because of one such success that I am able to publish this article. Yes, I got my job at MakeUseOf because of an email. Share your success stories with us. There could be a tip hidden there somewhere which we could all us to write emails that could bowl someone over.