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Networking: what not to do

I like teaching and working with young people. I view it as part service, part education. I’ve been lucky to have amazing teachers and mentors so I want to give back. It’s also self serving … younger generations are catalysts for change and I want to understand and be a part of what’s coming.

now “young people” is a relative term of course. most of my mentors and role models are in their 50s and 60s — they think of ME as “young people.” but i am 36, have been out of college for 15 years now and gainfully employed in corporate america for over a decade. when i say “young people” i am generally referring to those who are right out of school and totally green in the professional world.

About one to four times a week I receive emails from these so-called young people looking for a job or an opportunity to meet and network. Some of them are good, some of them are bad. Here are some tips on what not to do:

  1. Don’t assume you are memorable. Explain who you are and how your email recipient knows you. Your reader needs to be invested in you to evoke a response. If your reader doesn’t remember you he or she will very likely ignore your note.
  2. Don’t send your resume as a Word doc. My inbox is already jammed with documents. Tossing another on the pile is adding to my chores and being presumptuous that I care enough to review it. Instead, send a link to your LinkedIn Profile or personal web portfolio along with a short intro (see #3).
  3. Don’t write long boring cover letters. Set it up with a few short, well-crafted sentences. Be funny, interesting and personable. I hate when people write long expository introductory essays. It makes them seem dull and obsequious. Have some wit and personality. Understand that you are one of legions of earnest, well credentialed people who are reaching out. Be different, have an edge.
  4. Don’t say that “it has always been my dream to work at (your company)” or anything heavy like that. It’s the professional equivalent of stalking. Look, you don’t know me and you don’t know my company. Ask for my personal experience … play to my vanity. It’s a major turn off when people yammer on and on about the greatness of some big impersonal corporate brand — even if it’s sincere it comes off as disingenuous.
  5. Don’t email at odd hours. Choose a good time to email: between 9 and 11 am during the work week. Many professionals use the first few hours of their day going through emails. If you send it at an odd hour or on the weekend, you may just get lost in the shuffle.
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