By Imani Nichols
Cold calling is when someone calls another person who did not ask to be contacted. Cold networking is reaching out to people online, and these are people that you don’t know. I prefer to cold network using LinkedIn.
LinkedIn allows me to have access to professionals in different networks. I rely on cold networking A LOT, and I’ve been successful. It’s easy, and anyone with a LinkedIn account can do it.
MAKE YOUR INVITE STAND OUT
When sending an invite message, provide your name, position, school/company, and what experiences that person has had that you’d like to know more about. Acknowledge any common networks you share such as college, Greek affiliations, or other memberships. Thank them for considering your request.
Don’t fret if your invite isn’t accepted. This will happen. Don’t take it personally. Move on to another individual until you get accepted invitations.
THANK AND FOLLOW UP
If your invite is accepted, send a follow up email thanking the individual for accepting your invite. Now, you have some options. You can either 1) set up a phone/video call with the individual or 2) send them a (short) list of questions you have.
To decide which option is best, simply ask the individual which is easier for them.
If the individual doesn’t respond to your follow up email, wait a few weeks and send another follow up email. Now, you don’t want to be a pest, just be persistent. After sending a second follow up email, and not receiving a response, start reaching out to other individuals that are of interest. Again, don’t take this personally.
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR DISCUSSION
After you have determined how you will gather information from the individual (phone/video call or email), know exactly what you want to ask them. Remember, this is cold networking, so you contacted this individual, they didn’t contact you.
It’s important that you are considerate of their time and you ask thoughtful questions.
I keep a list of questions saved on my computer so that I don’t have to think of questions for each situation. The questions are usually tailored to specific careers. For instance, I have a list of questions for management consultants, but this list of questions is different from those I would ask marketing analysts at consumer goods companies.
It may be intimidating to contact professionals that you don’t know, but LinkedIn provides the opportunity for you to build your network, so don’t be afraid to.
Imani Nichols is a student at University of Virginia graduating in 2017. She is considering Media Studies or American Studies as her major. After college, Imani plans to consult for a management consulting firm in Chicago and earn an MBA. She enjoys Forté webinars and working out.
Photograph by Nan Palmero.