How to write a must-open, cold work email

Sending a cold email can be an anxiety-provoking task, but it’s not without benefits. Sometimes, doing it the hard way makes for the greatest success story.

Sending a cold email can be an anxiety-provoking task, but it’s not without benefits. Sometimes, doing it the hard way makes for the greatest success story.

Anyone looking to make connections in their career or life should take advantage of cold emailing, a largely untapped resource that can help you find direction and even a fulfilling career. Here are just a few tips to help you shake off the nerves and send a networking email that’s sure to impress any recipient (even if they’re a cold contact you’re emailing for the first time).

Why send a cold email about a job or opportunity?

If you’re looking to connect with a potential client, network in a new city, or even make friends with someone in your industry, sending a cold email can be a great way to get the ball rolling. Setting up informational interviews or casual coffee meetings with someone you want to learn more from can be super beneficial to your personal and professional life. In other cases, you can also use this as a way of discovering job openings at a company you love, which may not have been posted yet.

Reaching out to someone that you want to get to know is flattering for them, so don’t let your worries about getting in contact with a stranger deter you from sending a cold email. You just have to make sure that you send the right message to the right person.

If you’re thinking of applying for a new job at a public relations firm, email someone in the same or a similar position that you’re applying for. You never know when an informational interview might turn into a new job. If you want to increase your blog quality and engagement, find a blogger in a similar genre to what you’re looking to create.

How to craft your message

When crafting your cold email, keep things concise, professional and easy. The goal is to reach your goal with as little back-and-forth as possible. You don’t want to waste any of their limited time since they’re already giving you some of it by opening your email.

Before you sit down to write, you should start by asking yourself these questions:

Before Writing, Ask Yourself “What Do I Hope to Gain From This Cold Email?”

What you write depends on what you want. Maybe you want to change industries or to meet up with someone to see what their work is really like. Or you’re looking to get involved with an organization in your community, but would like to know more first. Be direct about your intentions.

Then Ask Yourself, What Do I Have in Common With This Person?

Did you both attend the same university for undergrad? Do you have a friend or a previous employer in common? Mention it in your email. The person you’re reaching out to will be more likely to help you out if you share common interests or experiences.

Once you figure out who you want to email and what you need from them, format your cold email like this

Now Use This Cold Email Template

  • Start by introducing yourself, telling the person what you do
  • Note your common acquaintance(s) or shared interest
  • Clearly outline how you think they can help you
  • Include a direct ask, specifically a call-to-action. Do you just want to send them some questions about their job? Do you want to meet up and potentially gain a new mentor?
  • Include the specifics so they know how to respond
  • If you’re looking to schedule a time to talk to them, make sure to include your availability so booking a meeting requires as few emails as possible

Bonus: Cold email subject lines

1. If you luck out and have a common connection, try this:

“Anna, Mark Johnson recommended I reach out”

2. If you don’t know them but found and read some of their published work, try this:

“Ms. Connor, I loved your LinkedIn article on networking”

3. If you don’t have much to go on at all, offer value:

“Social Media Manager with Non-Profit Expertise Interested In Helping Your Team”

4. When all else fails, try a question:

“Any advice for someone who loves the marketing work you’re doing at Company X?”

(This is just an excerpt. For more, read all about cold email subject lines and our some of our favorite techniques.)

Keep your expectations realistic

Once you’ve sent your email, it’s time to be patient and wait it out. Don’t hound the person until they respond to you. Give them a two-week window to respond before you write them a follow-up email. If you haven’t heard from them in that span of time, follow up in a reply to your previous email so that they see both messages in the same thread. If they don’t respond after your follow-up, you may want to move on to someone in a similar position and see if they’d be interested in helping you out.

If you do meet with them to talk about their employer or industry, don’t show up expecting to hear that it’s an amazing place to work or thinking that this meeting is going to get you a job. Be honest with them and yourself about your expectations. If you really want to get the inside scoop on PR and marketing for a non-profit, then show up only expecting to have a conversation and learn something. If anything more comes out of it, that’ll just be a bonus.

Don’t forget to follow through and follow up

If the person agrees to meet up with you or answer some questions via email, be courteous, punctual, and respectful of their time. There’s no shame in getting right down to business when you finally meet. You should treat it the same as you would a job interview, whether the purpose of the conversation is personal or professional. And be sure to follow up within 24 hours to thank them for taking the time to make your career journey a little easier.

This article first appeared on Career Contessa.