- Michael Thompson
Most people see email as a strictly transactional tool, using it only when they need something or owe someone something. That’s exactly why you should use it to stand out.
Taking a moment to send these seven emails every week can help you strengthen your connections, stay top of mind as opportunities come up, and learn about industry trends. (Slack messages and texts also work, but I’m into email because most people have their inboxes open all day anyway.) None of these messages should take more than five minutes to write, but each of them will go a long way in helping to advance your career.
An email saying “thank you”
Imagine opening your inbox after lunch and seeing, sandwiched between a coupon from the local pizza place and a message from an acquaintance asking if you could tweet their new article/contest/course, an email with the simple subject line: “Thank you.” Now imagine how much those two words could improve your day.
People love to feel appreciated. Instead of worrying about all the things you need to do in the morning, take a moment to thank someone for what they do for you. “Thanks for all your support during that last big project” or “I’m so glad we get to work together. Thanks for being my sounding board” is all you need to say to make an impact.
An email to someone you admire
The fastest way to get what you want is to get to know the people who already have it. Send a message to someone a step or two further ahead in their career and let them know how their work has impacted you. I like to use the formula: “Thanks to your work doing X, I’ve been able to accomplish Y.”
I’ve been sending cold emails every week for the past three years, and many of those messages have led to great phone calls, which in turn have led to close relationships and interesting opportunities. Amazing things happen when people we admire turn into friends.
An email lifting someone up
Earlier in my career, Conor Neill, a leadership expert and the person I admire most in the business world, would send me short messages telling me that he was following my work and that I was progressing. The fact that he’d take the time to do that meant the world to me.
There’s something magical about someone you don’t know very well showing interest in you. Often, it’s even more validating than when a friend encourages you, because they really don’t have to do it. One sentence can impact someone for a lifetime. Neill taught me to always lift as you climb.
An email to someone you just met
In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg writes that when it comes to learning about new opportunities, “weak ties” trump “strong ties.” This is because people who run in different circles than you are exposed to different ideas, whereas people we see on a regular basis tend to have similar conversations.
Reach out to someone you recently met during a training session or through a mutual friend. See if they’re up for a chat. We all need more eyes looking out for us.
An email to an old co-worker
Starting a weekly boring email chain with a few of my buddies from high school has vastly improved my quarantine experience — I realized the easiest way to have friends right now is to keep up with my old ones. The same is true for maintaining a professional network.
It’s harder to network with new people, so why not use your energy to check in on the people you used to work with? It’s a good way to learn about what’s going on in your industry.
A Thursday afternoon email to your boss
Save your boss from having to make rounds before the weekend. Tell them what you’ve got going on: “Here’s where we stand regarding W, X, Y so far this week. I’m focusing on Z tomorrow. But if there’s something that needs to be pushed, let me know.” It will help you understand your priorities and show that you’re organized.
A Friday afternoon email to yourself
When I talked to Melody Wilding, LMSW, the author of Trust Yourself, she suggested I send myself a Friday afternoon message with a run-down of the week. Try it: Write down your wins, a few things you learned, and any idea that made your week a successful one. It’s a simple exercise, but it really helps you transition out of work mode and realize that what you’ve done is enough.