You met at your internship, spoke at a career fair or were introduced through a mutual friend. Now, you’re approaching graduation, seeking a new job or just trying to stay in touch. You need to know: Can they help you reach your professional goals? How can you guarantee they’ll want to help?
The art of networking and maintaining relationships outside of your immediate circle takes time, courage and empathy. But, it’s actually a lot easier than it seems when approached systematically. People enjoy being in a position to help others and share their knowledge. It’s just a matter of creating the right context.
Step 1: Establish common ground 
If you’re emailing an indirect connection (e.g. a parent’s professional contact, a LinkedIn search result, a colleague of a career fair representative), you must provide three things immediately:

  1. Who you are
  2. How you know them
  3. Why you’re contacting them

This quickly primes the person to continue reading by providing a familiar name or situation as well as your purpose. Being direct with the purpose also shows respect for their time.
Step 2: Illustrate your credibility
You can establish your credibility through your academic degrees, most recent jobs and other experiences. Then, connect these qualifications directly to the company or position. This makes it easy to see how you fit and why the contact should help.
Step 3: Be explicit in what you want
The most important thing to avoid is being vague or unclear with what you’re looking for. The unfortunate paradigm for young professionals is that they’re incredibly open to a broad range of positions and enthusiastic to apply their skills in any way that’s needed. Potential employers, however, have very specific, concrete goals and positions in mind. They do not want to do the legwork of figuring out how your skills or experiences match their needs. They only want to know: Why are you right for their company and this position?
It’s also important to be specific with what you want from them. Do you want them to email or call you back? Or, do you want them to forward your resume and information? Always end these emails with a clear call to action.
Ready to try? Whether you’re checking in at Thanksgiving or next Spring, use these tips to craft the perfect introductory or follow-up email. Click here to view an email template to get you started!

Jessica Sochol was a mentor and executive board member with SWSG from 2009-2012 at Carnegie Mellon University. She currently lives in Manhattan, works as a marketing manager, and of course, loves to network. Follow Jessica at Jess_so_cool or her blog