The following excerpt was taken from “Earn It!: Know Your Value and Grow Your Career, in Your 20s and Beyond” by Mika Brzezinski and Daniela Pierre-Bravo. Order your copy HERE.
Daniela shares that when she was trying to build a professional network, it was harder because she didn’t have the resources to connect with professional women. She would send “cold” emails and get on buses to travel to New York City and take informationals when she could, and place phone calls to people willing to speak to her about their industries.
Now that she’s in management herself, Daniela has supervised the hiring of interns on "Morning Joe." Recent graduates hoping to get jobs in the media industry connect with her by adding her on LinkedIn, and then use their InMail service to reach out. She says, “There are emails and messages I’ll receive that make it easy for me to engage, and others that make it tougher for me to reply. It’s all in the tone.
“The biggest mistake you can make is reaching out to someone in a big company without expressing any sort of connection or purposefulness. If your goal is to get an internship, for instance, at the very least you should do some research on the department in which you’d like to work.”
I couldn’t agree with her more. When you’re reaching out to someone, make your communication focused, clear, and substantive. After all, the person at the other end is taking time out of his or her day to read your email, and in the best-case scenario, agreeing to meet you or make an introduction.
Make it worth his or her time. Daniela shared two cold emails she received on LinkedIn from young women to demonstrate this point.
I am wondering if you have any advice or connections in helping me obtain a position with NBCUniversal or if you can help point me in the right direction to do so?
“This email is very hard for me to answer. First, if she’d done her research, she would have known that NBCUniversal has many different divisions and departments. There is no way for me to point her in the right direction if she doesn’t refer to a specific job opening or even mention an area of the company. Is she interested in a specific show? A business division? I can’t tell by this correspondence. Second, there is no personal connection to this email. The tone is very ‘what can you do for me?’ I would assume that this was copied and pasted to a number of different people.”
Unless you’re reaching out to a member of the Human Resources department, the recipient of a cold email has no particular motivation to learn about you. Help your potential contacts help you by giving them a reason to read through your resumé—make that link, and your purpose, clear.
That’s not to say you can’t start networking if you don’t know exactly where you may want to end up. You should certainly try to connect online with companies and people who interest you, especially if you are still trying to figure out what career path to take. But as always, it’s important to be gracious and respectful of their time and how you ask for it.
Here is another example of a message Daniela received that not only resulted in a response, but after an informational meeting and a few coffee dates, she personally recommended this young woman to the NBC Page Program.
Now the young woman that once cold- messaged Daniela on LinkedIn works as a producer on the Today show. Her name has been changed to respect her privacy.
My name is Jennifer Hastings and I just graduated from Miami University in May. I have been exploring career opportunities at NBCUniversal and came across your profile on LinkedIn as we have a few mutual connections from Miami! I am currently interning at a public relations agency in NYC but am looking for opportunities this September. I would love the chance to talk to you about your time at NBC or just to reminisce about Miami! Please let me know if you would be interested in grabbing coffee or chatting on the phone and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
All the best,
How was this young woman so effective in her communication? “Her email felt personalized and genuine,” Daniela says. “She made the connection that we both went to the same university and had mutual contacts. And the fact that she mentioned that she was looking for opportunities is not a bad thing; we were all there once.
The difference is how and why she asked for my time. She asked to hear about my own experience at the company instead of jumping to conclusions that I would automatically recommend her for jobs. There was less pressure. “More people are willing to give you their time if you ask to learn about their background in a genuine way.”