Networking emails are a challenge. You can use them to “meet” someone you’ve never met, to keep in touch with someone you have met, or even to put your name in the ring for a job opening. They can be the most useful tool in your career, if you do it properly.

A well-written networking email can (eventually) lead to a new job or career path. A poorly written email, on the other hand, will be lost forever, deleted instantly. If you choose the right lead, keep it concise, and provide value, your networking target might actually help you out.

Start out strong.

Your contact will not get to the meat of your email if your lead isn’t powerful. You need to write an introduction explaining who you are (if they don’t know already) and why they should read on.

If you’ve never met the person you’re writing to, the best way to start is by sharing something you have in common. This can be a mutual friend, interest, or something else. If you’re using a mutual friend, be sure to explain how you know the person. A mutual interest could be related to your career or your passion, but also explain how you know it’s one of their interests (for instance, if you read it on their Twitter profile). Whatever you have in common, make sure it’s something unique, so your contact will keep reading.

If you have met the person you’re writing to, start out by introducing yourself again. Then touch on something you talked about in your initial conversation. At networking events, the people you meet probably spoke to tons of other people that day. Just because you remember someone does not mean they will remember you by name. Pick a moment from the conversation you had and remind them about it. They’ll appreciate your memory and hopefully be interested to hear the rest of what you have to say.

Keep it concise.

Most people don’t have time to read lengthy emails that aren’t directly related to their work. In a networking email, you need to get to the point and get there quickly. Once you’ve made an introduction, explain what you want right away.

Whether it’s just a thank you or a request for new information, be direct. Make your request simple. Don’t assume someone has more power than they do. Your first request of a new contact in your network should be easily attainable. Ask for a bit of information or advice at the most.

You can also briefly give yourself some credibility by talking about something relevant you’ve accomplished. This makes your new contact feel like you aren’t just trying to use them for their position. It shows you want to establish a genuine professional relationship.

Wrap it up.

Just as quickly as you began your email, you need to conclude it. Wrap it up by thanking them for their time and providing a call to action. Ask them a question or suggest a way to meet in person. But again, make it simple.

A call to action will give your contact more of a reason to respond. Creating a back-and-forth conversation is the best way to jumpstart a professional relationship.
Every piece of your email should be brief and concise. It should take no more than one minute to read. If you include all of the pieces, you’re on your way to a great networking experience.