Influencing and Networking for Executives
When you’re changing industries or need to learn about a new technology, product, or market, it can be helpful to meet with experts in that area. Asking for mentorship by industry leaders is an effective method of building your professional equity and of positioning you in your targeted industry.
If you are like other professionals I work with, you may believe that this idea is excellent conceptually, but you may wonder how to do it without appearing needy or foolish.
It has been my experience that very few requests are denied when your request is approached respectfully. Use this script to ask an industry leader for their insights.
Here is how to do it.
Script for asking for mentorship when you have no referral. This is a letter you send in the regular post.
Mark the envelope personal and confidential.
Dear Mr. Cruz:
Re: Request for confidential mentorship arrangement
For the last 18 months I have followed your career and I am fascinated by your perspective on finite element analysis as it relates to the structural integrity of ship hull construction. Most recently I read in the New York Times that you spearheaded the multibillion-dollar vessel conversion of the Portuguese Ro‑Pax Ferry “Lisbon Reis”. I also follow you on MPBN’s television show Vessel Review and am an avid reader of your blog.
As a senior structural executive in the marine intermodal transportation industry, I would be grateful for the opportunity to learn about this topic from you, with no strings attached. My pledge to you—should you agree to this arrangement—is that I will only ask you for information, nothing else, no referrals, no job opportunities and I guarantee you I will not pursue career opportunities at your firm. I will keep our arrangement confidential.
The suggested structure of this arrangement is a six-month engagement of one-hour meetings at a location convenient to you or by telephone or Skype. I realize this is a lot for me to ask and a lot for you to give to someone you don’t know. I want to take my career to the next level and your insight in this field will help me garner much-needed insight in the ship-building industry in the Western U.S.
Please contact me at your convenience at 222.222.2222.
If you don’t hear back from him in 10 to 14 business days, follow up with Mr. Cruz.
Negative Employment References
According to professional reference-checking firm Allison & Taylor, Inc., up to 50 percent of all reference checks they conduct uncover negative feedback from the reference. The following script is an effective way to ensure that your referee will provide the most accurate and positive reference. By providing the referee a copy of your CV and the job posting, you will help mitigate the tendency for references to be unclear about your abilities, especially if it has been a long time since you worked together.
Several weeks ago, we discussed my career plans, and I am grateful that you have agreed to serve as a professional reference on my behalf.
Out of respect for my current employer, I politely request that my plans remain confidential until a firm offer has been accepted. As you know, I am deeply committed to my employer as well as to my own career and I want to ensure that any decision I make to move into this role is made in the best interest of everyone.
It also occurred to me that you may not have a current copy of my resume and this may be helpful for you during the reference check. Attached to this email is an updated version of my resume, along with a letter and job description for an opportunity that I am currently pursuing.
Please let me know if you have any questions about the package. Should I be fortunate enough to secure an interview and subsequent job offer, I will be sure to let you know in advance of a potential reference check.
A follow-up letter script:
Dear Mr. Cruz:
Thank you for your time today. As you know, I am keenly interested in the role of VP Sales for Direct Foreign Investment Inc. The economic and business development that I have generated for my current employer and for New York City has been exponential, culminating recently in a pending $78.4M+ deal that will see critical business sectors invest their industries here in New York. That is a direct positive economic impact for our city.
I can do the same for Direct Foreign Investment Inc.
Because of the positive feedback I have garnered from the community relative to my interest in the VP Sales role, it occurred to me that it might be helpful for you to have a copy of my current resume. Although not mentioned in the letter, over the last six months, I have been repeatedly recruited by several national economic development agencies; however, my commitment is to this region, especially because of my expansive global connections that have brought billions to this region and because this is where I want to live.
If you have any questions whatsoever, please feel free to contact me at your convenience.
I also understand, Mr. Cruz, you may not be able to accommodate my request and so I will telephone you on December 6 to gauge your interest.
Should you have questions in the meantime, I would be pleased to answer them. My mobile number is 222.222.2222 and I am available from 9am – 5pm eastern time.
PS: In case electronic email is more convenient for you, my personal email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proactive employment references—getting your network to speak for you
Endorsements can be an effective way to positively influence decision-makers and recruiters. You are likely familiar with LinkedIn recommendations or written endorsements. The proactive reference is more powerful and is tied directly to an open position and is launched by an influencer in your network. If you are vying for the CEO of Fortune-1000 company, you likely have competition. Should you know the CEO of a company that your targeted company is a supplier for, a written letter directly from him to the CEO of the targeted company is the most powerful type of endorsement. This may be a telephone call or written letter to the targeted company. This is a conversation you will have with your CEO colleague. You must make this request in person or on the phone. Do not make this request via text or email.
It could begin with:
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