When you’re reaching out to someone as part of a job search, email is usually your first point of contact. It’s fast and accessible 24/7—just like social media. While typing an email can be as quick as creating an Instagram post, that doesn’t mean you should treat it as casually as a selfie. Email is an invaluable tool for job seekers—as long as you remember your audience and your goal.
“When I hear from recent grads, I’m often struck by how few of them reflect awareness of the professional skills necessary to solve the kinds of problems we address each day to move our business forward,” says Dan Robertson, Publisher of Golf Digest.
First impressions matter. The person you’re addressing isn’t your roommate, your fraternity brother, or your SoulCycle teacher. She or he is highly accomplished—because they pay attention to details. The content and the tone of your message should be strictly professional, from your salutation to the font you choose. Use the spelling and grammar check that’s built into your email software—and to be absolutely certain you’re putting your best foot forward. Don’t fill in the “to” field until you’ve carefully proofread your message.
Don’t hog the limelight. Even though you’re the one looking for a job, your email shouldn’t be all about you. Show your contact that you care! Do some research and describe the ways your skills and interests mesh with their organization’s stated goals. When you’ve done your homework, the person you’re writing to will begin to see the value you might bring to their business. Your email should show that you’re a team player—not a prima donna.
Make the first move. Every message you send should be actionable. Make sure that your contact understands what you’re looking for and make it easy for them to take the next step. Don’t leave the ball in your contact’s court—instead, offer dates and times for a Skype session, informational interview or coffee date. Make sure your goal for the ‘conversation’ you have started is turnkey: whether it’s an introduction, a referral, or a recommendation—one actionable goal per email will help your contact to help you.
Keep things strictly business. If this one seems obvious, you’re off to a great start. Every part of your message—from your salutation to your closing—should be 100% professional. Profanity, long strings of exclamation points, and emoji are fine among friends, but they won’t get your foot in the door and may even offend the person you’re trying to impress.
Courtesy counts. Most successful people got that way through hard work—which means they’re seriously busy. The fact that your contact is taking the time to lend you a hand deserves some gratitude—so before you sign off, be sure to communicate your sincere thanks.
Don’t be shy about asking for help. When you’re ready to take your job search to the next level, a career coach can help. As Dan Robertson goes on to say, “Fran Berrick and Spearmint will fill an important niche, helping job seekers to focus and develop their unique strengths and the real-world skills they’ll need for success in the 21st-century workplace.”