Don't @ Me...
I am pre-cringing as I prepare to share this story. So, there was that one time in my career...
Early in my corporate life, during my first week at a new organization, I'd look up everyone with a VP or higher position in the corporate directory and send them an email. (I naively did this because I was the highly motivated, ambitious, driven, self starter the company hired). Mind you, I'd never seen, let alone interacted with, these executives.
Here's a REAL example of an email that I've sent to an executive. I had the nerve to keep it short because I had other things to do...like harass other executives:
I hope you are doing well. My name is Nakisha Washington and I am a Customer Service Representative in the Consumer Retail Department. My short term career goal is to become a trainer. My long-term career goal is to lead the training department at a Fortune 100 company. As a highly motivated, ambitious young professional, I would like schedule lunch with you to pick your brain.
I received ONE response. It was from a senior vice president, who eventually became my mentor, telling me that sending those emails was NOT the move. I am grateful for her response because we often make mistakes, that we don't realize are mistakes, because no one tells us. You don't know what you don't know...and I had no idea I was doing anything wrong!
Whether you are reaching out to ask for mentorship, learn more about a department or build a new client relationship, keep the following in mind:
- Find (or create) a connection as a way to introduce yourself.
- If you are connected on LinkedIn, look to see if the person as authored or shared an interesting article, comment to make the initial contact.
- Have you attended or seen a clip of a presentation or speaking engagement this person has led? Include a comment about what you took from their message.
- If you have a common acquaintance, ask for an introduction.
- Be specific and intentional.
- Requesting a meeting to "pick your brain" will almost always yield no results, especially when you are requesting time from a busy person. Instead, be specific about what you would like to meet about.
- Are you reaching out to the right person? Look beyond executive titles. If you are looking to gain an entry level position in a department or get your product into a company, reach out to a specialist or generalist on the team, for example. Better yet, develop a relationship with the administrative staff. You will gain invaluable insight, learn about the day to day life in the department and possibly an introduction to key people within the organization.
- Do your research.
- You should have already done research about the person you are meeting with. Find out how long the person has been in his/her role, what other position has s/he held? What professional organizations do they belong to? How embarrassing would it be to discover during the meeting that you attended the same college? Do Your Research.
- If you are looking to transition into a new department, you should find out information including: What are the primary goals of this department? Who are their customers/clients (internal/external)? What other departments do they partner with? What are the roles within the department?
- Share your progress.
- You own your development, not your manager, mentor or random executive that you've reached out to. If you desire to become a project manager, what steps have you taken? Have you joined organizations or attended events for project managers? Have you taken a class or subscribed to blog for PMs? You should begin the conversation with "I took a pre-exam for the PMP certification, what else would you recommend to help me prepare for the exam?" not "I want to be a project manager".
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