Sometimes you have to email a stranger (or near-stranger) and ask a favor. No matter how far along in your career you may be, it feels awkward. I have a formula that pushes through the awkwardness, based on what I like to see in emails I get.
- The greeting – explain who you are and how you are connected to (or found) the person you’re writing to.
- The ask. Make it quick and clear.
- The acknowledgement. You are asking this person for a gift – their time, their effort, their contacts – whatever. Make it clear you know you are not entitled to this
- The closing. Express your gratitude for their effort.
And you’re done. I don’t follow up if you don’t hear back; I find someone else to write to.
Here’s a sample:
Dear Captain Kirk,
I found you on LinkedIn; we’re both connected to Commander Spock. I’m a PhD student writing my dissertation on inter-species communications in conflict situations. I was hoping you could spare about 30 minutes for a video call with me – I hope to use the Enterprises’s first and 50th missions as case studies, and having your input would make my dissertation much stronger. I know you must be very busy, and I’d be grateful for any time you could spare.