Networking Series: Part 1

A few days ago, a reader asked, “How do you start the conversation for business networking?”.

Networking can be quite intimidating. Have you ever went to a professional event with the purpose of trying to find the closest seat to the door? For some people, it is hard to simply, mingle. This one guy told me, “I hate going to those events. All the small talk is just too surfacy. I really like connection.”

I get it. When my career coach advised me to network, I just didn’t understand the concept. To me, the obvious way to get a job was to respond to a posting. I also found it odd to connect with someone solely for professional reasons. I felt like I was using a person for a job and that felt inauthentic.

Over the past year and a half, my perspective on networking has transformed tremendously. And my view changed because I decided to use networking as a way to learn, share and build connection.

Networking is all about connection. True connection creates a symbiotic relationship that results in authenticity. And of course, networking increases your chances for getting a job!

So how do you start that conversation?

There are so many ways to start a “networking conversation”. I mainly use three forms of networking: cold requests for informational interviews, references, and professional events. I will share my tips in a three part-series.

In this post, I will discuss cold requests.

Cold requests for Informational Interviews: The rule of thumb for conducting informational interviews is to have someone reference you whether it be through a friend or LinkedIn. However, there will be many instances in which you’ll have no connections to your dream company. As a new Bostonian, I really had to challenge myself to send emails to random people in order to get my foot in the door.

Before I sent a random email, I would research companies, organizations and people doing work that I was passionate about. For example, if you are interested in consulting, you would research the top consulting companies in your city.

Then I would use LinkedIn as well as company bios to find a person in my dream position or someone in human resources who I can speak with. Next, I would draft an email that stated my purpose. I would give a little background of myself, praise the organization, if possible discuss a common interest, and ask for advice!

Here is an example:

My name is Esther Leonard and I’m an Adult Basic Education Instructor with a passion for social justice. I am considering alternative yet innovative career paths within Adult Education, particularly in policy or social entrepreneurship. 
I’ve been researching organizations that do unique and creative service and social justice oriented work and I stumbled upon  (company name). I find your organization’s mission of tackling social problems through cross sector collaboration inspiring and impressive. I would love to learn more about the organization as well as speak with someone who would be willing to give me advice in transitioning into policy and social entrepreneurship.
If someone from your organization would be willing to have conversation by email, phone or in person, I would be incredibly grateful.
Thank you for considering my request,
I was intrigued to see some interesting parallels with our careers. You work at Discovering Justice, an organization with a mission for civic education and empowering students to be advocates for justice. My passion for social justice compelled me to apply for the organization and I’m so glad that you were able to see my passion for education and civic engagement on my LinkedIn profile.
In addition, I find it interesting that we both have academic backgrounds in Political Science with teaching experience. Currently, I am considering alternative yet innovative career paths that would combine my background of political science, my experience as an educator along with my passion for social justice. Given your ability to unite your interests, experience and background, I believe your insight and advice would be valuable in my career search.
If you would be willing to talk with me, I’d be incredibly grateful.
My schedule is pretty flexible, let me know your availability and I can work around it.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
Best Regards,
I’ve sent versions of these drafts to about 15 people last year and almost everyone responded kindly. This usually led to a reference for another possible informational interview or in some cases a job opening.
I will talk about how I use references for networking in my next post!
Share your tips below!
Esther Yvette




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