How to Reach Out to Professionals

With midterms almost complete and spring break only days away, last week’s post probably seems like a lifetime ago. That being said, I still want to share advice on landing informational meetings (aka how to reach out to professionals in roles or companies that interest you).

First things first, there are TONS of opportunities to chat with professionals on campus – from Career Fairs to Employer Buzz sessions. Two great ones coming up this spring are the 1) Marketing & Communications Career Conference on Friday, March 20th – RSVP on BentleyLink today to hear panelists speak about Digital Marketing + Social Media, Analytics + Marketing Research, Public Relations, and Advertising and then network with employers looking to hire for summer internships and full-time positions, and 2) Non-Profit Career Fair on March 26th – have the chance to meet employers from across the non-profit industry.

Events aren’t the only way of connecting with professionals, though. Trying to make a connection in the video game industry? Looking to talk to a PR professional in Miami? Just want to find a time to reach out that doesn’t conflict with your busy class schedule? There are a million reasons to make connections outside of on-campus events. Here are the secrets to start those conversations:

  1. Get on LinkedIn. I know you’ve heard that you need to be on there, and there’s good reason! LinkedIn is THE place to find professionals in your area of interest. Create an account (or update your existing account) to have AT LEAST the following: a professional looking photo, a catchy headline, Experience section listing your previous employers and job titles, Educations section listing Bentley and your expected year of graduation.
  2. Search for professionals. Use the bar up at the top to type the name of a company, industry, job title, or type of role you are interested in. Once you have your results, use the filters along the left hand side to make sure you are looking at people (as opposed to jobs or names of companies) then tailor your search. Filter school to be “Bentley University.” Play with the location, industry, and advanced search filters as desired.
  3. Find the right people. Start looking through some of the profiles of the people who resulted from your search. Our top prospects are going to be the ones who graduated within the last 5-10 years. These folks are the ones who will be most able to relate to the position that you’re in. Once you narrow this down, if there are still too many, start looking through profiles. Find the professionals with interests that are most similar to yours – cool previous jobs, clubs and organizations that are similar to ones you are a part of, etc. Many times in life, you want to find people who are different from you. In this particular scenario, though, you want to find people who are similar.
  4. Personalize invitations. Once you find those people who you want to talk to, you have two options. If you are a second connection (indicated by “2nd” next to their name), you can go to their profile and scroll down. On the right hand side, it will tell you what connection you have in common. You can then click “get introduced” if you are comfortable asking one of those connections in common to introduce you. NOTE: if you do this, make sure you are professional in your request as your connection will likely end up forwarding this as part of their introduction to the professional that you’re trying to get in touch with. If you are NOT a second connection, on the professional’s profile, you want to go to the little downward pointing triangle to the right of the “Send InMail” button. This triangle will open up the option to “Personalize Invitation.” Click it.
  5. Write your intro. If you are reaching out directly through the “Personalize Invitation” option, you are limited to 300 characters. If you have had a friend connect you, you are not limited. Either way, you want to get a few things across: your educational background (I am a sophomore majoring in marketing at Bentley University), the reason that brought you to this professional (extremely interested in ad agencies in NYC), and why you’re reaching out (I would love to set up a 20 minute call to learn about how you went from Bentley to agency life in NYC). If you are reaching out directly, make sure to include your contact info so they can respond even if they do not want to accept your LinkedIn invitation.

Once you reach out to a couple of professionals, wait to hear back. You may get immediate responses, hear back two weeks later, or not receive a response at all. For the calls, prepare questions so that you can make sure you are learning what is that you want to learn. NOTE: this is NOT a time to ask for a job or internship. It is a time to LEARN and to BUILD your network. Decide how many professionals you want to reach out to based on how many responses you tend to receive and how much time you have to schedule these phone calls. You do not want to overburden yourself.

Any tips you want to share about reaching out to professionals and landing informational meetings? Share them in the comments below.

Want to read more marketing and career insights from Amanda? Follow me on Twitter @amandahelfand.

By Amanda Helfand
Amanda Helfand Senior Assistant Director, Undergraduate Career Services