You are in the middle of a job search and you are starting to get frustrated. You have your resume posted on a couple of job boards and you are searching and applying every day to all the new job postings that you feel you are qualified for. Either you are not getting responses on your applications you submit or you have so much competition when you interview for positions that you have not been able to get any job offers. What do you do? The best way to find a position in my personal opinion is to network with other professionals in your industry. You can start by sending out some networking letters. Networking is a highly effective job searching technique that is underutilized by the majority of job seekers. What is a networking letter and how do you write a professional networking letter?
Why Use a Networking Letter?
A networking letter (or approach letter) is used to help you obtain contacts within your industry that may be able to assist you in your job search. When you start promoting yourself with networking letters, you are likely to find out about job openings before they are posted online. There are thousands of positions created and filled without ever having to be advertised. A professional networking letter will help you to uncover these hidden job openings. The networking letter is a way to introduce or reintroduce yourself to contacts that might have information and advice to assist you in your job search. Your goal is not to ask for a job from these contacts but to simply ask for job leads, career advice, referrals, and introductions to other contacts that may be able to help you.
Before You Start Creating the Networking Letter
Before you ever start creating your networking letter, you should think about all the people in your network that you can reach out to.
- Known Contacts: Think about what contacts you already know that you would like to send a networking letter to. Think about your current friends, friends of friends, spouse, spouse’s friends, current and former coworkers and supervisors, professional contacts you have met online through networking sites, associations and professional organizations, clergy, customers, clients, teachers, current and former teachers and classmates, etc. that you could reach out to.
- Referrals: Ask your known contacts for names of other contacts that they know that may be able to help you.
- Unfamiliar Contacts: Think about contacts that you met briefly at a networking event or an informal setting that you might be able to reach out to. Sending networking letters to unfamiliar contacts after your initial meeting is important in building good networking relationships. You can thank them for taking the time to speak with you and also confirm any follow up plans you mentioned during the conversation.
- Unknown Contacts: You can search on Jigsaw or LinkedIn to gather names of additional contacts that you would like to connect with.
- Follow-Up: Make a plan to follow-up with each of the contacts you plan to send a networking letter to. Make sure you have correct phone numbers for each of your contacts and follow-up via phone a few days after sending the networking letters. Follow-up is important in networking.
- Keep In Touch: It is important to keep in touch with your contacts even when you are not job seeking or looking for advice. If someone helped you, then you should thank them and return the favor if possible.
Networking Letter Format
Always use the Standard Letter Format to write your networking letter. Instead of listing the Company Name and Company Address in the top right corner of your networking letter, you should list your personal name and address.
- Addressing the Contact: Always write to a specific person instead of “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam”.
- First Paragraph: If this contact is a Referral, you should mention the name of the person that referred you to them. If this contact is Unfamiliar, you should mention how you know them including where you met and what you discussed, etc. If this contact is Unknown, then you should mention how you came across their information and why you chose to contact them.
- Second and Third Paragraphs: The second and third paragraphs should outline your qualifications, talents, etc to convince the contact that you are worth the advice and information that you are seeking. Keep the information about you brief and to the point. You want to keep the focus on the information you are trying to obtain. You should address what exactly you are wanting from that contact. You can ask for job leads, career advice, referrals, introductions to other contacts, etc that may be able to help you.
- Final Paragraph: The final paragraph should include a positive statement to influence the contact to take action. You should let them know that you will be contacting them to follow-up via phone in the next few days. You should always thank the contact for their time.
- Closing: You should end with “Sincerely”, sign your name, and then type your name underneath your signature.
Correct Networking Letters
- Proofread: You should always proofread your networking letter. Check for spelling and grammatical errors. I would recommend having someone else proofread your networking letter after you have proofread it before you send it to your contacts.
- Length: Networking letters should never be more than one page. They should be short and to the point. You should make every word in your networking letter count.
- Tone: The tone of your networking letter should always be professional, informative, confident, and upbeat/positive. You should try to keep the tone of your networking letter friendly without being over casual.
- Paper: If you are submitting a networking letter non-electronically, then you should make sure you use good quality paper that matches your envelope.
Incorrect Networking Letters
- Resume: Do not include your resume with your networking letter since you should not indicate that you are looking for a job in a networking letter.
- Contractions: Do not use contractions. Write out the word ‘do not’ instead of using the word ‘don’t’, etc.
- Fonts: Do not use decorative fonts, flashy colored paper, or unusual formats. Your networking letter should be professional and will look that way if you use the Standard Letter Format. I suggest using Arial 10 as a font. Make sure your entire networking letter is in the same font type.
- Wording: Do not overuse adjectives in your networking letter and do not use the word “very”. Do not start too many sentences with the word “I”.Limit the use of writing in the passive voice. Avoid using clichés and meaningless or wordy expressions. Do not use exclamation points in your networking letter.
- Recycled: Never use the same networking letter for different contacts. You should always take the time to tailor your networking letter to each individual.
- Personal Information: Do not include personal information or interests in your networking letter besides your name, address, and contact information.
- Dishonesty: Never exaggerate or be dishonest about your qualifications, education, etc.