There’s something to be said for gumption: the go-get-'em attitude that shrinks the power distance between junior staffers and the far senior authorities. But how does one bridge that divide and advance a career in the process? Hill Navigator discusses.
Q. What do you put in a cold e-mail to someone you want to make a connection to but have absolutely no ties to whatsoever?A. You don’t write it.
It would be great if you could email a committee staff director, or White House legislative affairs liaison and ask to meet for coffee, or a quick lunch, then pass along your résumé after chatting about your respective hometowns. But you’re unlikely to get a response (let alone said meeting) without having a tangible connection.
Here’s why: People in positions of authority get such requests all the time. They have a heavy load of responsibilities and their time is at a premium; they’re unlikely to give a thoughtful response or set aside time for someone with whom they have no connection or ties.
So what can you do? Put those email skills to good use, but start with people with whom a connection exists: your college alumni network, your softball team, a former co-worker or intern coordinator who has landed in a new spot. These people know you (or have met you in passing) and might be inclined to take time out of their day for coffee and conversation. Once you have established a genuine connection, they would be more likely to pass your name on for additional meetings.
Cold emails do have an exception: When you have something to talk about and are not overtly soliciting a response. Perhaps you saw an op-ed in Roll Call, or your boss was particularly appreciative of help with legislation. In that case, send an email, introduce yourself, and quickly get to the point about your appreciation/admiration. If you receive a warm response, consider that the beginning of your connection, however faint the spark might be.
And to your original question, you might still get a chance to connect with the person to whom you’d wanted to reach out to initially. Those seemingly innocuous informational interviewers might be more well connected than you think. At the very least, they can point you in a warmer direction.
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