How to Make a Cold Call for a Networking Meeting

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There is no doubt that career networking works. It’s one of the key ways job seekers get hired. Your network of professional contacts, college and university connections, and personal friends and family can help you get your next job.

It’s not only the people you know well - or at all - who can be instrumental in helping your job search. Your broader network is important, as well. What can be difficult is figuring out who and how to ask for help.

Prepare a Pitch Before You Call

How you reach out to networking contacts is one of the most important factors impacting the success of your job search campaign.  Reaching out to individuals who don't know you and capturing their attention can be particularly challenging.

Preparing a pitch that will encourage the person you’re contacting to meet with you is an important first step. You may need to sell them on why they should take the time to help you.

In addition, emphasizing a common thread linking you to the contact can make it even more likely that the person will be motivated to meet with you. 

It can be easy to send an email or LinkedIn message, and that’s fine as a first step. However, a phone call isn’t as easily ignored as an email, and it can be a way to build a relationship with your contact. 

10 Quick Tips to Make a Cold Call for a Networking Meeting

1. Make every effort to generate referrals and solid leads. Good prospects include LinkedIn connections, former supervisors and co-workers, college faculty and classmates, family contacts, members of professional groups, fellow parishioners, neighbors, and everyone you can think of who might be able to help.

2. Send a message in advance to help make your contact more receptive to your call. Send an email or LinkedIn message with some of the information mentioned here. You can include a resume as long as you mention something like "I have attached a copy of my resume to provide you with a summary of my background to help you to advise me."  Mention that you will call to explore the possibility of arranging an informational consultation.  Here's an example of a letter requesting career advice.

3. Practice a brief introduction or elevator speech prior to your call. Begin by mentioning how you identified the person as a potential contact. If you were referred by one of their contacts, you should lead with that information. You might say "I am reaching out to you upon the suggestion of John Smith. John thought that you could provide valuable feedback regarding how to frame my background for jobs in college admissions."  Review these tips for writing an elevator pitch.

4. Mention how you are connected. If you haven't been referred to your contact, part of your leading statement should include a reference to any commonality in your background.  For example, you might mention that you attended the same college, belong to the same professional association, participated in online discussions for the same group, or grew up in the same area. 

5. Your introduction should also include a clear statement regarding what you are requesting from the individual. The type of advice you request might include insight regarding how to position your background for opportunities in their sector, roles which might be suitable given your skill set, feedback on your resume or perspective on trends in their field. 

6. Ask for help and advice, not for an interview. With cold contacts, your reason for reaching out to the individual should be for advice and to arrange a consultation. You should never ask a potential networking contact who doesn't know you yet to get you an interview.

7. Your initial statement should convey three or four assets that make their sector a logical area for you to explore.  For example, you might say "I am investigating roles where I can tap my passion for writing and editing and my fascination with digital media."

9. When logistically possible, ask for the opportunity to meet face-to-face before you end your call. If you represent yourself well at in-person meetings, you will be more likely to generate referrals for interviews or further networking opportunities.  Suggest a meeting in their workplace since you will gain a clearer sense of the work environment. You also might receive some introductions to colleagues while you are there. Here's how to make your networking meeting a success.

10. Follow up your call with a thank you communication expressing gratitude for any advice that you have received. Provide any additional information that might help your contact to gain a further appreciation of your background. Include a link to a personal website or LinkedIn profile that contains work samples and recommendations.  Review this list of thank you letter examples for a variety of circumstances.