You’ve networked with so many people, some of whom said they’d keep you in mind and you think they really could be helpful. You want to get back in touch with them because you still are looking for work. How can you do it without sounding desperate for a job?

There are simple ways to use language and structure to continue building the relationship with your contact. Relationships will be rewarding no matter what happens, and ultimately they will yield meaningful work. Historically 65-70% of all jobs are gotten through personal connections.

Based on my knowledge of direct mail and direct response, I dissect and improve a networking followup letter from one of the people I help. She did a great job, and I give the reasons for that. You’ll see her text, my additions in bold, and comments in italics.

Dear Glenn,

[Give a reason for the communication. It certainly makes it more comfortable for you to pave the way for the rest of the note, and the person then has some context instead of getting something out of the blue. Whatever your purpose in sending the note, it is more sophisticated and sensitive to open with a pleasantry instead of jumping right into your purpose. The recipient gets a little space to remember you and mentally prepare themselves to hear what you have to say.]

As we move into summer, I thought I would update you on Company’s outsourcing plans and my job search status.

[Now you can move into your update and request. This author relates a little about her state of mind, which revelation contributes to developing the relationship. She is upbeat and looking forward. And then she reminds the reader of how they originally met and makes her request.]

Here’s what I know:
[Add this to tell reader that you are beginning to talk about one topic. This phrasing also reminds the person that YOU are the person who is giving the reader the inside information. A casual tone helps continue the development of your relationship with this person.] XYZ Company continues to move forward with their outsourcing reorganization, although the project has been delayed several times. They have not replaced Sanjiv Soandso and it is still unclear what they plan to do with the strategic planning function. A peer of Sarah Doe’s has been appointed to set up a “clearing house” for head count/space requests, and she has been working with the Company Consulting group to set up the function. Where and how long term strategy is developed has not been announced. I will let you know when I hear more. [This last sentence tells the reader that the writer will continue to look out for him/her, will seek ways to do them a favor, and will be in touch again in the future.]

About my job search: [This additional phrase announces that you are starting a new topic. It’s a friendly way to direct the reader and allow them to decide which paragraph to read first.] As we moved into Q2, I was encouraged to see the job market open up slightly. I have recently had several job interviews and continue to work on some possibilities. I am still very interested in a position at Company2 and hope you will keep me in mind if one comes up. [This reiterates that you want their help, in a low key yet pretty direct way.]

I hope that you are well and are enjoying the beautiful weather we are having. [Closing on a personal note reinforces the relationship between you and the person with whom you network. You are interested in them as a person, not simply for what they can do for you. Most people tire of being asked for something without developing a more personal connection with the asker.]

Best regards

Jane Doe

In addition to the specific messages here, two more takeaways from this exercise are:

  1. Any time you network with someone, make an effort to learn about the other person and see if there is anything you can do for them. Being able to do something for the other person – even if it’s very small (the name of a website on a topic you discussed, an article or book related to their work) – creates a sense of mutuality. You are not just “getting,” you are also “giving.”
  2. Guide people through a communication, giving them direction that makes it easier for them to navigate your letter. It unconsciously helps them see you as a clear, effective communicator.