Soon-to-be-graduates: How To Email Professionals 101

Ahhh, spring and a young person’s thoughts turn to A JOB … it’s our annual advice to graduates blog. Let’s start with a recent story.

One of our friends in the business was frustrated by an email request, having met this student at a career day event:

Hello (famous, sole-operator photographer), I’m out of town right now for a track meet, but will be back on Sunday. What days would you be free to meet up and chat?

Said photographer helpfully replied:

Dear (student),

Advice for future emails –

I would open with something like Dear Mr ____ – yep, it’s too formal and no one else ever uses it, but it stands out. Then I’d swing into something like “thank you so much for taking the time to come and present to our class” and then drop a little line like “I loved looking at your work, particularly xyz”. And then go for the ask, “would you have any time available to meet briefly – coffee or a beer, my treat.” 

I’m not saying I need all that bullshit to offer up thirty minutes of my time, and I definitely would never let anyone in college pick up the tab, but, as I get four or five people a month asking me to make time to chat I would definitely move that request to the top of the list. 

And, as you move to network with more people I would structure your emails that way – those people have a lot of demands on their time and they want to help you, but making it feel like it’s an exciting request that you know is a big ask on their time will definitely help. 

So…he’s right, you know. The world is relatively open to you right now, in that many people will be eager to help you as a new grad, but respect and deference will get you a lot of special treatment. You may not have to display this level of deference forever in your career, as the world is definitely getting flatter (although, trust us, it’s always helpful to further your own objectives, to be respectful at whatever your career level), but when you are starting from ground zero, asking politely for favors (and then never, ever forgetting to say thank you) will go a long, long way.

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