Welcome back to our series on dos and don’ts for connecting over email.
In the first post, we covered dos and don’ts for when you’re seeking an email introduction. But as you build your network and experience, people may start asking you to make introductions.
And if it's done well, connecting two people can improve your professional reputation and spur productive conversations between the people involved. Here are three tips to ensure the best outcome for everyone.
Make sure it’s a good fit
It’s great that you want to help someone in your network advance their career, explore a new path or interest, or meet new people. But to help them reach those goals, you need to make sure the person you’re connecting them with is a good fit. If they’re interested in direct service work and you introduce them to someone in policy analysis or fundraising for example, that probably won’t result in a very productive conversation.
If you don’t have enough information to determine who in your network to tap, ask the person looking to meet someone about what they’re hoping to learn or gain. Questions you can ask include:
- Are you looking for someone with a specific type of work experience or background?
- Are you facing a specific fork in the road or looking for guidance on a big professional decision?
- What kinds of people have you already connected with on this issue?
If you can’t find someone in your network who’s a fit, it may be in everyone's best interests to politely decline.
Check with your contact first
Don’t skip this step! If you're asking someone in your network for a favor—to help someone they don’t know, based on your recommendation—you need to actually ask them before you make the email introduction. Otherwise, you’ve essentially committed them to helping, regardless of whether they have the desire or time to do so, and that can hurt your relationship.
Here’s a template you can use to ask permission:
Subject: Are you open to an email connection?
Hope you’re doing well. [MENTION SOMETHING RECENT AND RELEVANT HERE, SUCH AS: “I enjoyed the article you wrote last week” OR “I see you just reached two years at Organization X—congratulations!”]
I’m writing to see if I could connect you with [GENERALLY DESCRIBE THE OTHER PERSON AND WHAT THEY'RE SEEKING—FOR EXAMPLE, “someone who is interested in pursuing a similar career path,” “one of my former interns who is interested in working at your organization,” OR “a friend of mine who’s considering applying to the graduate program you completed.”]
[THEN INCLUDE SOME OTHER DETAILS ABOUT THIS PERSON, SUCH AS A SENTENCE EXPLAINING WHY YOU WANT TO CONNECT THEM. FOR EXAMPLE: “I spoke with NAME OF PERSON a few weeks ago about her academic and career goals, and she said she wants to deepen her expertise in housing policy. I thought it might be helpful for her to hear from you about your experiences in this field.”]
Would you be interested in connecting with them? If so, I'll send an email introduction. If not, no worries—I know it's a busy time.
Once you get an affirmative response to this email—and only then—proceed with the email introduction.
Include relevant details in your introduction
When writing an email introduction, think about how you would introduce the two people in person. For example, if you saw both of them at a networking reception, what would you say in your initial introduction? You’ll want to include those same details in your email, such as:
- A little bit of background on each person. Include one or two sentences about what each person does for work, where they studied, or where they’ve worked previously. Focus on the background details that are most important for the other person to know.
- How you know both people. This detail reaffirms that this will be a worthwhile connection because you personally know both of them; you’re not just blindly introducing two random people.
Let’s assume you’re connecting someone who’s interested in housing policy with your contact at the local homelessness and housing coalition. Your email introduction could look like this:
Subject: Introduction: housing policy work in our area
John and Jane,
Please allow this email to serve as an introduction for the two of you:
- John Smith is a master's in public policy student at Local University, my alma mater. One of my former professors introduced me to John, and when we spoke a few weeks ago about his academic and career goals, he shared that he wants to deepen his expertise in housing policy.
- Jane Doe is a policy analyst at the Local Homelessness and Housing Coalition. Jane has been there for three years and previously worked on housing issues, which is how I got to know her. I'll let you two take it from here. Hope your conversation is helpful!
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As a nonprofit advocacy professional living in Washington, D.C., Deborah works with groups across the country to educate their communities and lawmakers about public policies that can help low-income residents make ends meet. She is passionate about helping people connect their interests to a cause they believe in and empowering them to take action.