How To Write Networking Emails
While everyone advises networking when it comes to a job search, it isn't the most intuitive process for a lot of job candidates, especially relatively young people who may not have a lot of connections. To some degree, the misunderstanding involves what people mean when they say "networking." Networking literally is about reaching out through thin, almost intangible connections in many cases—not solidly cemented relationships. A networking email may be an email to a friend of a friend, or it might be an email to someone you met briefly at a job fair or a function of some kind. It might even be an email to someone you have no direct connection to, perhaps an alumnus of the school you attended or someone who is part of a professional organization you also belong to. In these cases, you may feel like you're penning an email that is unwelcome, but that's not necessarily the case.
When you write a networking email, you should write a friendly greeting and then immediately explain why you're emailing them—not with regards to what you want, but with regards to why you feel there is any common ground. If it's a mutual friend, give that person's name and explain that he or she provided the contact information with the hopes there would be an interview (or whatever else it is you want). If you met the person at an event, tell them what event it was and try to remind them of the meeting. If you belong to an organization or shared an alma mater, state that immediately. If you're familiar with the person's work, you might add a friendly compliment on what that person has done.
After you mention whatever it is you share in common, you should then go on to state what you're looking for—an interview, an informal meeting, career advice or so forth. You may even ask for more networking advice in the hopes of making another connection. You shouldn't feel bad about soliciting someone you don't know or hardly know; that's literally what people mean when they talk about networking in many cases. That means that the people you're reaching out to may well be used to it and even appreciate the chance to meet a fellow professional.
One more important thing to do is to make sure you keep your email short. One short paragraph should be sufficient. You may want to attach your resume to provide additional information. Sending a long note is a really bad idea. The worst thing you can do is waste someone's time. If you send a short note, that actually shows some thoughtfulness on your part, and the other person may appreciate that you aren't trying to take up too much of his or her time and actually be more willing to help you and not less. Be prepared for lots of your emails to be ignored. Just because some people aren't willing to help though, that doesn't mean that others won't lend a hand. Even if you don't find what you're looking for, someone may have some useful advice for you which solves your job search problem in another way.