Why last minute networking doesn't work

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Networking Difficulty

LinkedIn recently kicked off recruiting for the Strategy & Analytics rotational program. As a result, my colleagues and I get many InMails and emails from students eager to learn more about the program.

At first, I did my best to reply to each person and take every call. Providing opportunities for others is very important to me. After all, many professionals gave me time to chat when I cold emailed them, and it changed the trajectory of my career.

But after being on the receiving end of cold emails for a year, I quickly realized it’s incredibly difficult to reply to each person, let alone take every call.

I have three strategies for getting in touch with someone who may be targeted by many other applicants:

Strategy 1: Ask for an introduction

As mentioned earlier, I can’t support everyone who reached out for the S&A program. I now prioritize people that have exceptional LinkedIn profiles that capture my attention, or those who are referred by a mutual friend.

The harsh truth is that an applicant seeking to get in touch with a professional is a complete unknown. The applicant could be a stellar fit for the job, but they are unproven and the professional has no way of knowing.

Introductions work because the applicant borrows credibility from a mutual connection -- even better if it’s someone who has a strong relationship with the targeted professional. The likelihood of an introduced candidate being a strong fit for the job is significantly higher than a complete unknown.

If you’re trying to get in touch with hard-to-reach professionals, try finding a mutual connection who can introduce you.

Strategy 2: Follow up relentlessly

Cold emails are often met with silence. On the receiving end, it’s easy to see a cold email come through my inbox and forget to respond.

People underestimate all the plausible reasons for why a professional might not respond to their cold email.

A few common reasons for not hearing back:

  1. Did not open or see it in their Inbox
  2. Read the email but forgot to respond in the moment
  3. Read the email and decided not to speak with you

It’s natural to think that a failed cold email must mean the third scenario was true -- that the professional read your email and decided not to speak with you.

However, I’ve found that a failed cold email is often  caused by scenario one or two -- where professionals simply got busy and forgot to reply or check their inbox.

This is why it’s important to send a follow-up email. You should follow up at least a couple times, and eventually you will get a “yes” or a “no”. Following up will increase your chances of getting a concrete answer.

And in the event that you do not get any replies after a few follow-ups, it might be worth moving on and pursuing a different lead.

Strategy 3: Reach out before recruiting is in high-gear

This is one of the most effective but least satisfying strategies.

If you wait until a few weeks before the application deadline to network, you’re making the entire process a lot harder for yourself.

I wrote about this extensively in my post on networking early, often, and when you least need it.

Because recruiting is cyclical, there tends to be a busy season and a calm season. The challenge is that everyone tries to network right before application deadlines, which makes busy season even busier.

Networking Difficulty

Given that the professionals you are reaching out to have full-time jobs, they are much less likely to set aside 30 minutes to talk to you when there are 5 other people also asking for their limited time.

Professionals would be much more inclined to speak with you if you reach out months before the application deadline. It will set you apart and it’s how I got my foot in the door at Disney.

Final Thoughts

The goal of this article is to give you a glimpse of what it’s like on the receiving side of cold emails, and how you can better position yourself to get in touch with professionals in high-demand jobs.

I know it’s easy to feel rejected when you don’t hear back after sending a thoughtful email, but keep in mind that cold emailing is a numbers and strategy game.

You won’t be able to connect with everyone, but with the right persistence and strategy you will get in touch with people who could alter your career trajectory.

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