The article She Went for Broke, Then Found a Job (via the NYTimes) shares the story of a recent graduate who, like many, has been looking for a job for the better part of the year. After getting the personal courage to directly email an author she idolized, she not only got to have coffee with her favorite author, but also landed her first job by connecting with a friend of the author.
Keep in mind, this is all just because she sent a passionate and hopeful email to a complete stranger.
In this age of total accessibility, you can find almost anyone’s email address and can instantly reach out, but should you? Is it impolite? Is doing so using good judgement or the early sign of someone who insists on circumnavigating the process – is that appreciated or looked down upon? As always, the answer is “it depends” – and it depends on the company, the person, the culture, and so much more. So instead of telling you yes or no, I’ll share with you a few thoughts.
You will likely get seen – If you email someone senior in a company you are likely to get a courtesy response or have your information passed along. Make sure your resume is in perfect shape and relevant to the company. In some cases you might get a courtesy phone call or in person meeting. Knowing you might get seen or get called, make sure you are prepared for whats next. Be able to speak intelligently about the company and how you can be an asset there.
It’s a gutsy move, which may or may not be appreciated – As with all risks, it may pay off and it may do the opposite. It could be viewed as unprofessional to circumnavigate the process. Some companies might feel like those types of risk-takers are the types of people they want to hire. There is really know way of knowing.
If you’re going to “go big”, be impressive – If you’re emailing someone very senior in a company, make sure you have something interesting and insightful to say (and offer) before you ask for a favor from a total stranger. Show your passion for what they’ve done in their career as well as they company. Suggest an idea or give a piece of feedback (people love feedback). Basically, try to give as much as you can before you ask.
Be as specific as you can about what you want – Asking someone to pass your resume along for a specific role that you’ve researched at length is different than asking someone for 20 minutes of their time to meet for coffee. The coffee request is not a bad one but it is a lot more open-ended and a bigger ask than just requesting someone forward an email. Not to say it won’t work (it did for the girl in the article) but it is less likely.
While there’s not a clear cut answer, try to use your best judgment. As a general rule of thumb I feel that it is better to reach out directly to leaders of teams but maybe not the CEO. Those team leaders will still have a pulse on how they can help you directly and it is less likely to be viewed as inappropriate. Also, reach out to alumns of your university or friends of friends. The more connected to the person you are, the better. At the end of the day, you’ll have to go with your gut and use your best judgement when thinking about “going big” and taking that half court shot.