Cold Email Your Way to Success

Graphic by Ben Pietrusinski

Emailing someone you don’t know can be incredibly intimidating, and even more so if they happen to hold the keys to your dream job. Liz Wessel, former Google employee and current entrepreneur, cold emailed her professional idol with a dilemma and she credits her success to that email.

A cold email is sending an email to someone you have never met. They have no idea who you are and why they should care—your job is to make them care. Choose a person who you look up to either in your intended field or in life. Try to make it someone who you think will give quality advice that will further your career and that you feel connected with.

Finding a person’s email address in the modern era is easier than you think—just use your preferred search engine and enter the person’s name with the word, “email,” after. This might turn up a general inbox for the person or perhaps a directory for the company they work at.

The first piece of advice Wessel gave when sending a cold email besides explaining who you are, is to state that you’re a college student.

“Everyone in the world wants to help college students.” Says Wessel.

Not only does the fact that you are a college student help people sympathize with you, it also legitimizes you as someone who is worth giving time to. The person you are emailing will call to mind their struggle to establish themselves and hopefully will rack up some good karma and email you back. Tell him or her what school you attend and what you are studying, maybe throw in a little antidote about why you chose your major.

The second thing that anyone getting ready to cold email someone of prominence is to form a really good question. This question could decide your fate on whether you receive a reply or not. Call to mind why you chose this particular person to email and how they relate to your career goals. In Wessel’s case she chose a successful venture capitalist, Roelof Botha. At the time, she was a college senior with an offer from Google and a different offer from a venture capitalist firm on the table and wanted his opinion on what she should choose.

Wessel knew that in a few years she wanted to start her own business and decided that a man who invests his money for a living was the best choice for advice. To her excitement, he responded and told her to take the job at Google. She did and worked at Google for years before she quit to create her own company, which is thriving.

Putting yourself out there and pushing boundaries to advance your career will pay off more than you could imagine. Who knows? Maybe you’ll land your dream job through a cold email.


Overcoming the Struggle of Finding a Summer Job

From Daylongs to Day Jobs: How to Shop for Your Internship on a Budget

Cold Emailing 101