Monday, April 1, 2019
Dedicated BLPB readers may recall that I offered advice to job seekers in a series of posts a few (now almost three) years ago. The most recent in that series (which links to the prior posts as well as an earlier post written by BLPB co-editor Haskell Murray) related to "networking cover letters"--communications designed to get you a meeting (or at least start a productive conversation) with someone who may be able to help you progress in your professional development. That post can be found here.
A few weeks back, a friend sent me a link to this article in The New York Times. The link was accompanied by a query: "For students?" My response: "Yes! For students!"
The authors of the article see many things that I also saw as successes and perils in these kinds of communications. For example, taking my four points from that 2016 post in turn, set forth below are a few related things that the more recent article affirms.
- Respect your reader's time: "[I]t can be difficult or even unrealistic for a busy professional to coordinate bespoke consultation appointments for everyone who asks."
- Sell your strengths: "[I]mmediately highlight any commonalities and unique bonds you have." "[A]rticulate why this person is distinctly qualified to give you the knowledge you seek. Make a clear, compelling case for why you’re initiating contact. Be vulnerable, and get to the heart of why you’re reaching out."
- Consider the timing of your letter: "Expect light homework, deferrals, referrals or delays in response to a cold email asking to pick their brain."
- Stick to it: "If the expert asks you to keep them updated with your progress, do it! Continue the dialogue." "Take any relevant advice offered and let the expert know how implementing the advice panned out."
Another important tip from the article is to look at the communication as a chance to build a relationship. (“It’s not about checking a box. It’s about meeting someone and connecting to really build a relationship”). And always important (but sometimes overlooked): "Experts agree you should offer to pay for drinks or a meal. Take notes if appropriate, put your phone down (or stash it out of sight) and focus on the discussion at hand."
This is all great stuff. Many of us have opportunities to convey this kind of information to students or confirm it by repeating it to them. We should take advantage of those opportunities when they arise to enable our qualified students to get the jobs they seek.