How to Write Better Networking Messages
The secret to effective networking messages is changing your mindset. Don’t think of it as asking people for favors — instead, view every interaction as an opportunity to build a relationship for mutual gain. I talked about mutuality in more depth here, and in this article, I’ll show you exactly what I mean.
Here’s the fact pattern: Sam is contemplating a lateral career move. Sam speaks with Alex at a friend’s house and follows up by email a week later. The following are four different messages Sam might send.
Message #1: Transactional only
I enjoyed speaking to you about your role at BigLaw Firm at Friend’s House last week. I’m searching for a new position in your practice area. If you hear of any openings, I’d be grateful if you passed them along.
This message is polite and to the point, but it doesn’t spark a mutually beneficial relationship and it asks Alex to potentially “recommend” Sam for a job. Sam, however, hasn’t offered Alex any value.
There also isn’t much substance to the message. The implied question, “Are you aware of any openings?” lends itself to a simple yes or no response, rather than opening a longer dialogue. That’s another reason why asking about job openings at the outset of a relationship is never a good idea.
Message #2: Connecting via interests
I enjoyed speaking to you about your role at BigLaw Firm at Friend’s House last week. You mentioned [legal trend] as an area of interest. I’ve been following it too, and I ran across this related article. I figured you might have seen it, but just in case, I wanted to send it along.
I’d love to continue our conversation about your practice area; I’m considering a move in that direction in the future and would love to hear about your experience. Would you be open to a 30-minute coffee meeting next week? My treat, of course.
This email is more likely to build a connection. Sam offers a resource in an area of genuine mutual interest. In that context, Sam’s coffee invitation comes across as a continuation of a professional discussion, not as asking for a favor. Sam then asks to learn more about Alex’s experiences, showing an interest in the work. The request to help find an opening can always come later.
Message #3: Connecting via hobbies
It was great seeing you at Friend’s House last week! Here’s the link to the beginner kayaking class we were talking about. I think you’ll appreciate this instructor; she’s so good at putting first-timers at ease. If you end up liking it, we’d love to have you in our weekly paddle group!
Also, I’ve been mulling a lateral move to your practice area. If you’re open to a 30-minute coffee meeting, I’d love to ask you a few questions about your experiences and get your insight into firms I’m researching. My treat!
Here, Sam follows up about a shared recreational interest, giving Alex valuable inside information and indicating openness to a longer-term relationship. The coffee meeting invitation feels like a natural outgrowth of the conversation.
Message #4: Connecting via community
It was great to see you at Friend’s House last week. Law school feels like a lifetime ago, and the kids are growing so fast! Azari and I would love to host a park playdate next month. Is the 22nd good for you?
I’m starting to think about a career pivot, and I’m trying to connect with more colleagues. I’d love to hear more about what you’re up to. Do you have half an hour for coffee next week? My treat!
I’ve changed the game with this one: Sam and Alex are law school acquaintances. By offering to host the playdate, Sam makes a significant show of support, demonstrating the intent to create a mutually beneficial relationship. The request for a coffee meeting flows smoothly from there.
Good networking starts early
Building mutually beneficial networking relationships, at its core, is simple: it’s offering and accepting support. Lay the groundwork for your next move by nurturing your connections, even when you don’t need anything. Share your resources generously, and many of your colleagues will respond in kind. It’s a win-win scenario. Remember, the mutuality can come at any time — it could even be years from now, but remaining open to support people within your network is key.