Cold Contacting an Alum? Here’s What You Should Do.
No, it’s not just you: networking can feel pretty awkward at times. And chances are, most alumni might even agree with you—so if they find themselves on the receiving end of an out-of-the-blue message from you, they’ll generally respond positively as long as it’s a well-framed request.
But before you try to Ernest Hemingway the perfect message, there are a few steps you should follow first. For starters, do some research to find an alum whose background you find interesting. Next, discover common points of interest by looking at their profile in the Alumni Directory and on LinkedIn. And finally, think about what questions you’d like to ask. Once you’ve gathered all this information, you’re ready to draft your message.
What to include in your cold contact message to an alum
Who: Start things off with a brief intro about yourself. After all, this is a chance for the alum to get to know you, too.
How: Mention how you found the alum and their contact information (LinkedIn? Alumni Directory? Mutual acquaintance?).
Why: Explain why you’re interested in speaking with them, including what you have in common—like Stanford student group, major or industry—and what you’d like to learn from them.
What’s next: Ask if they’re available for a 20-minute chat to discuss their work and/or career path in the next couple of weeks.
Thanks: Of course, you’ll want to wrap up your message by thanking the alum for considering your request.
What not to include in your cold contact message to an alum
Don’t ask for a job or for funding.
Don’t send a LinkedIn request without a message about why you want to connect.
Don’t contact alumni for commercial or political reasons.
Don’t share their contact information with others without their permission.
A few reminders about cold contacting
Keep your initial message short and sweet.
Be flexible and schedule around the alum’s availability.
Be patient. Wait a week for the alum to respond; if you don’t hear back by then, send a follow-up asking if they have 15 minutes to talk—or, if not, if there’s someone they can refer you to for a career conversation. Still no response? It’s time to move on to another contact.
Whether it’s your first time cold contacting an alum or whether you’ve lost count by now, prepping for that initial contact is the best way to set yourself up for success. And remember, you’re not in it alone—SAA is here to help you every step of the way. Keep reading below for some sample messages to get you started.
Sample Emails and LinkedIn Messages for Cold Contacting Alumni
Email Request for Informational Interview (Example #1)
Subject: Request for informational interview from [Stanford student/recent Stanford graduate]
Dear (Name of Alum),
I was excited to find your profile in the Stanford Alumni Directory. I’m a recent graduate in human biology at Stanford and am currently exploring careers in global health. I’d like to learn more about your experience as a program manager with Save the Children. Would you be willing to meet sometime in the next few weeks for 20–30 minutes (on the phone or over Zoom) to discuss your current role at Save the Children and how you prepared for a career in global health? Thanks so much for considering—I look forward to hearing from you!
Email Request for Informational Interview (Example #2)
Subject: Informational interview request about [XYZ point of interest]
Dear (Name of Alum),
I recently graduated from Stanford with a B.A. in international relations. I saw your profile on LinkedIn and found your email in the Stanford Alumni Directory. From your LinkedIn profile, I see that you’ve worked at a variety of NGOs, most recently in Syria. As I’ve focused my own studies on the Middle East, including time studying abroad in Cairo, I’d like to return to the region to work full time. I’d love to hear about your experiences living and working in the region, as well as any advice you might have for me as I begin an international job search.
Are you available for a quick chat over phone or Zoom sometime within the next few weeks? Your insight would be extremely valuable. Thanks so much for considering this request.
LinkedIn Request for Informational Interview
Dear (Name of Alum),
I recently graduated from Stanford with a degree in psychology. I was excited to find your profile on LinkedIn as I’m interested in pursuing a career with (the State Department/on Capitol Hill/ with an international nonprofit focused on human rights). Would you be willing to speak with me for 20–30 minutes about your career path or your experience working at ABC Organization? Thank you for considering this request.