By Emilie Aries 

In today’s hyper-networked world, it’s become increasingly clear that having a supportive squad of boss friends in high places can help you achieve all kinds of career goals.

We know that holding those one-on-one networking meetings and swapping stories with key stakeholders is critical to growing authentic, reciprocal relationships.

But how the hell do you get their attention in the first place?

Often time, the most challenging part about networking meetings is getting them on the schedule!

Here’s how to make it happen:

1. It starts with a stellar subject line.

In the battle of information overload, your email subject line is the front lines.

Assume the person reading your subject line is on the go, walking into a meeting, and skimming their inbox from their smartphone. How do you capture their attention?

Drop their first name to grab their eye. Depending on your ask, consider including “Coffee?” or “Collaboration?” or “Let’s talk!” in the subject line as a way to clarify your ask up-front.

If you’re reaching out to a total stranger you’ve never met, but know you have a friend in common, drop that name like it’s hot. “Brigid X told me to reach out” or “Friend of Brigid’s – Coffee?”

2. Keep it short and sweet.

In the first sentence of your email, tell them who you are and why you’re contacting them. Seriously. Your first sentence. Get to your point.

You can do so without sounding unpleasant.

“Hey Jack! It’s Emilie, the Founder & CEO of Bossed Up and I’m writing to explore an idea on how we might partner up to magnify our impact!”

“Hi there, Joy! I’m Emilie, a former classmate of your friend Jane Doe, writing to see if you might spare a few moments for a fellow woman in tech looking to break into the ad/tech job market here in DC.”

Make strategic use of hyperlinks to give your reader the option of learning more without taking up space in your email message.

Make a clear, singular ask (your most high-priority ask comes first!). If they say yes or no to that highest-priority ask, then you can ask them to consider your second and third priorities in future emails. This helps keep your message focused.

Assuming your first priority is to get them on the phone or get on their schedule for an in-person meeting, propose a few times in the next week that would work for you. For in-person meetings, offer to travel to wherever is most convenient for them.

3. Consider the WIIFM: What’s In It For Me?

When looking over your email before you send it, consider what this busy person is going to think when they read it. “What’s in it for me?” might sound callous, but is a very real consideration that all people with super-packed schedules must think about. So what is in it for your reader?

Make your case clear in your email, even if that means adding a sentence explicitly answering that question.

“I truly believe the community we’ve built at Bossed Up would be interested in what you’re up to, and I’d love to find a way to share more about the incredible offerings you have.”

“I admire the career path you’ve forged for yourself, and would love to be in a position to support and champion you in return in any ways I can down the road.”

“I would love to learn more about how you went about writing your book, and share any of my experiences on digital marketing that you might find helpful to you and furthering your goals!”

4. It’s all about the bump

Once you hit “send,” take a deep breath. Your work is done for now. But truthfully, the process is hardly over.

Odds are, your first email will go unreturned. These are busy people we’re writing to! And everyone’s inbox is overflowing these days!

So set up a system for “bumping” the email up for your recipient.

Let’s look at this situation charitably, okay? They wanted to respond, let’s assume, but you caught them at a bad time, or they started to reply and then got pulled away to tackle some other urgent task.

So send them another email, on that SAME thread, that says something crazy-brief, and points their attention to your previous email below. Something like this:

“Morning! I just wanted to bump up my last email from Monday (see below) for you. Let me know what you think!”

I recommend Boomerang for Gmail – a terrific plugin that can help remind you which of your messages have gone unreturned and when they need a little bump-up.

Maybe you just need to bump it up once, or maybe twice to get a response back from someone. Once three emails go completely ignored, that’s my usual cut-off, although it varies from situation to situation.

Whatever you do, don’t take it personally if some super-busy person doesn’t respond to your message. Odds are, it’s not you – it’s them. No, but really!

And can you judge them for it? Sure thing! They might be a disorganized hot mess or they might actually not care about responding to your request. Either way, you’re probably not missing out on much in the way of support if this is how they treat people.

That said, I write this post knowing full well there are well-intentioned people buried in my inbox, to whom I have yet to return an email message. It happens to all of us, no matter how pure our intentions. So when we make it easier on one another by keeping it short n’ sweet, getting to our clear ask, and reminding one another when an email goes unreturned, we can all cut each other a little slack and have a tad more compassion towards ourselves – and our overflowing inboxes – in the process.

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