YouTern is happy to present this guest post by Alex Cavoulacos of Pretty Young Professional.
We put one of our worst emails through our Editor’s magic fingers. Read on to see what a good introductory email to alumni looks like, and what to avoid.
To get your email edited, send it to editor[at]pypmedia.com.
Notes From The Editor
Ask For Advice – Not a Job
If there is one thing to remember, it is that everyone loves being asked for advice. Even if they can help you get a job, an alum asked for a lead will feel used. An alum asked for their input and experience, however, will feel flattered. After speaking with someone once or twice and building a rapport, chances are they will bring up potential job leads or contacts for you, rather than you having to ask for them. If not, you will still be in a much better place to ask for help now that they know you and are invested in your success.
The implication of this strategy is that you should start contacting alums early. A few months before you want to start applying for full-time jobs or summer internships, make sure to start perusing your alumni network. Contact at least 5 or 6 people, as some may never answer and others may take their time in getting back to you. You may need to contact more. Aim to develop 1-2 mentorship relationships with alums you hit it off with which you can then nurture over time. Update them on your life, classes you’re taking, how your interviews went. You will end up with extremely useful contacts in the field you are interested in.
Make This Easy For Them
As an alum, I have frequently had the intention of responding to an undergrad’s email but didn’t get around to it for weeks because it required more than a few minutes. Two things make it easy for me: clear questions and clear next steps.
Clear questions: Do not ask more than 3 questions to start. It will take time for an alum to give you a thoughtful response, so do not overburden them. You can always follow up with further questions later. This is also good practice for you, because you will need to figure out what you really want to know.
Clear next steps: By asking for only 15-20 minutes by phone, with an alternative of answering by email, undergrads increase their likelihood of getting a response. When it isn’t clear what you want from the alum, how can they know if they want to give that to a stranger? Do make sure to be respectful of their time and keep the conversation to 20 minutes. Nothing is worse than tricking someone into a long conversation they do not have time for. You can always schedule a follow-up conversation.
Remember that you are contacting a stranger who has little incentive to read your email (let alone respond) other than out of the kindness of his or her heart. A long email is much easier to avoid or put off.
About the Author: Alex Cavoulacos, is a co-founder of PYP. As COO, Alex works with the Editorial and Web teams, where she has been known to use her red pen on your emails. In her spare time, Alex can be found on her road bike or perusing New York’s flea markets. She also makes a mean soup…