LinkedIn is an amazing resource. It gives you access to the career history of millions of people around the world, many of whom have similar backgrounds or interests to you. It also makes real the possibility of actually communicating with these people to find out more about what they do now and their career journeys.
All that said, it can be scary and potentially awkward introducing yourself to people you don’t know online.
To help you get started here are 4 easy templates which you can adapt to reach out to people on LinkedIn or via email.
The key principles here are:
- Be clear what you’re asking
- Get straight to the point
People don’t owe you anything and people are busy but if you can be specific and gracious in your approach there are a lot of people who are happy to oblige (it’s a nice feeling to get asked for your expert opinion).
- Contacting Queen Mary alumni
Finding people on LinkedIn who studied the same thing as you (or were in the same clubs/societies as you) is a great basis upon which to strike up a conversation with someone. You automatically have something very concrete in common. So use that to your advantage as shown in this template:
Dear [first name],
I’m getting in touch because [reason why you want to speak with this person]. I noticed that you also studied [subject] at Queen Mary and [another thing which you have in common]. I’d love to learn more about [one or two things you’d like to learn from the person].
I appreciate you must be really busy, but I wondered if I could email you a few questions, or, if you had half an hour to spare, could I buy you a coffee and discuss my questions in person?
So what might this look like in practice?
I’m getting in touch because I’m keen to find out about working for a machine learning start-up. I noticed that you also studied Physics at Queen Mary and specialised in Kinetic Physics which is the module I’m just studying with Professor Alix. I’d love to learn more about the kinds of business projects you are working on and how far you are using the skills from the BSc in your day-to-day job.
I appreciate you must be really busy, but I wondered if you would mind if I emailed you a few questions? Or, if you had half an hour to spare, could I buy you a coffee and discuss my questions with you in person?
- Reaching out to someone you’ve never met before
The trick with this kind of approach is to keep it person specific. What is it about the person that chimes with you? Make it as easy as possible for them to say ‘yes’.
Dependent on your style, you might want to end with ‘Many thanks’ rather than ‘Cheers’, that’s up to you.
- Following up with someone you met at an event
Keeping in touch with someone you had a chat with at an event is one of the easiest ways to build your network.
Aja’s email sounds sincere and is to the point. It’s also a nice touch to offer to buy someone a coffee and meet them at their convenience. The email still needs a subject – what would you put here?
- Someone important you once met (and you want to keep in touch with)
As you build your network you’ll probably come across people who are pretty important and pretty busy. They probably also meet a lot of people – they may not realistically be able to spare you the time to talk about your career ideas. Nevertheless, it’s great to have them as contacts so you could try the following approach to forge an initial connection. Maybe in the future there will be something that you might be able to offer them or ask them which will really peak their interest.
It was great meeting you after your speech at the 80,000 hours conference. I love the point you made about the need to share AI research openly and I enjoyed our discussion about the criteria upon which AI should be judged. I hope you have a great holiday and look forward to seeing you at industry events in the New Year.
With all of these templates it’s important that you edit and tweak them to fit your own voice and personality. Have a go at emailing 5 people and see what response you get. It’s great for your confidence building and soon enough, people will be trying the very same approach with you.
P.S. To find QMUL alumni on LinkedIn, first search for your subject or area of interest in the top search box e.g. ‘Psychology’ or ‘Machine Learning’. Then filter by ‘School’ (it’s an American site originally – hence the terminology) and add Queen Mary to the right hand search box.