This article was written by Rikin Shah for LinkedIn
(Note from the ECO: The ECO endorses the content of this article, but found typos and grammatical errors in the original piece. We have attempted to correct many of them in our copy below.)
Let's say you've found your dream company and identified someone you think you would like to connect with; now for the approach. How can you be heard when you reach out to someone at your dream company? The goal here is not to directly ask for an internship but rather to build a genuine and useful relationship with the company.
I have fallen prey to this many times. I have the business card or email address of someone, but somehow never knew what to say. I wanted to find a formula that was bulletproof, something that would lead to an internship instead of in their unread box. I hated the idea of reaching out to someone without really having much to give. But if you are a young professional or student, what you can give someone with an established career is the opportunity to give back to someone younger. If you are looking to land an internship, you're better off framing the email as an opportunity for them to give you advice rather than asking for a job. Every single email you send and conversation you have with a potential advocate, you need to reframe the context so it's about them. It’s not about you, it’s about the other person.
Let’s face it, emails are essential to connecting with anyone today. But we all know that it’s hard to send an email that stands out.
The key to sending an email that elicits a response is to make a reasonable and personable ask. Imagine a stranger walking up to you on the street and asking you for a job. You would be reluctant. But let’s say they asked you for advice on getting a job, you’d be much more willing to provide the latter.
Consider two cold emails you can send to someone:
Hi! My name is Rikin and I am a sophomore marketing student at the University of Texas at Austin. I am interested in working in the outdoor gear industry. I am planning on being a product designer and building camping gear. Are you looking for any interns? If so, I would love to work with the team. It’s always been my dream to work for an outdoor gear company. I think my experience being an honor roll student and being involved in my business fraternity would qualify me to be on your team.
I saw that you are involved in the outdoor gear industry in Austin. I think it’s incredible that you made the switch from working in banking to living the dream of designing camping gear.
As an adventurer at heart, I have been interested in ending up in the outdoor industry after I graduate from UT Austin. I was wondering if you might be willing to take 20 minutes to hop on a call and maybe advise someone who’s in the same shoes you were in 5 years ago?
The differences are subtle, but together they make a difference.
Asking for Advice:
People love to give advice. Instead of asking questions ask for advice. People love to give advice, just ask your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving dinner. The goal is to turn this relationship from a unilateral connection where you are asking for help to a more bilateral mentorship relationship. Get them invested in you.
Be sure to have pointed questions to ask. Don’t ask for general advice, ask for advice on something specific such as finding your first internship, etc.
College students often hide behind their qualifications. They use their GPA, school, or leadership experience to build credibility. Unless your credentials include singlehandedly saving the world’s whale population, your credentials don’t entitle you to someone else’s time. All that matters is your ability to work hard and offer value, everything else is a proxy. If the first paragraph does not talk about why your email relates to your recipient, you’ve already lost the game.
Throughout your school career, you’ve been taught to hide your vulnerabilities. But if you step back, your dream company is going to be fine without you, but the company you work for will have much more impact on you. It’s okay to be vulnerable and admit it. It’s okay to ask if this career is going to be the right fit for you.