Not too long ago I received an email from a contact I might have met at a networking event. It started with:

“It’s been a long time I touch based friends of mine, I was on social networking hiatus since i joined IBM due to few personal reasons and decisions. What I’m doing here wasting electrons? Little embarrassing to touch base with a personal purpose for first time after a long gap, that too in a BCC. Sorry about it. Probably in the past we might have worked together with each other during my stint in Microsoft for some common purpose or just a acquaintance.”

Typo’s, grammar, and spelling mistakes aside, this email can come across as insulting. What’s wrong with sending an email like this?

First of all this person is mass-mailing his friends after a long time of being out of touch. To further the problem he’s putting them all in BCC meaning it’s not personalized.

He then generalizes why someone might have received this email because he was too lazy to segment his address book and at least try to separate which email he sent to which contact. It was much easier to just export his LinkedIn, Facebook, and email contacts and send them all the same email.

It gets even worse. Let’s look at the next part of his email:

“Did i Touch base you before? If I’ve touch based you recently and already exchanged mails on this, Thanks. It was helpful in making some progress, still I’ve not headed towards my dream role yet. Consider my advance apologies and please don’t consider my reach out to you again as pain, if you’re not in a position to refer me.

What i want from you now? I’m exploring Sr. Management, Architect, Advisory opportunities in Security/Testing/Program Management. Keen to explore any possible management roles with any decent enterprise in India (USA or any location), even open for start-up.

What’s that you can do to me? Please let me know whatever best you’re able to do within 2 days if you’ve right role within your network of internal teams in your business group or your clients.”

What I do appreciate about his email is that he doesn’t hide his agenda and he’s pretty clear on why he’s emailing you. What I don’t appreciate is how bold he is on what you can do for him now! Not only that but you have a time limit to respond with any opportunities you might have for him within two days. Is that two business days?

Humor aside treating your network like this is the fastest way to alienate them. They’re now seen as doormats used for your short-term agenda and then forgotten once your objective has been met.

What could this guy have done differently? What could we all learn from this email?

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22 Responses to The worst networking letter I’ve ever seen

  1. Drew says:

    You are correct. There are several grammatical, spelling, and other, socially inappropriate aspects to this letter. I do not want to be an apologist for this person, but do we know that it did indeed come from an individual and not SPAM? Furthermore, is English this persons first language? Or perhaps the reason for their supposedly long absence could be due to a head trauma/brain injury?

    I don’t really have a problem with an attempt to reconnect and seek assistance. I would certainly have crafted it in a different fashion and may have opened and/or closed it on a truly personal note, reinforcing the connection.

  2. Amanda says:

    I can’t even read messages like that. He could have at least had the decency to proof-read his email, or at least to try and hide the fact that he’s mass-mailing everyone. Something like a “hey, long time no see, I’m sorry it’s been so long since we last spoke, but I am in a real pickle and could use some help” would’ve been much better than this, though still pretty bad.

    Sadly I was close to being guilty of a similar offense… My network is virtually non-existant because I tend to give people space for their busy lives and it can be really difficult to reinsert yourself in their lives, especially if you wait until the last-minute to do so. Sort of like now; I need some awesome network-connections to brainstorm ideas to help my mom out because she’s worked for the same company (at different branches) for 30 years and now they’re all closing down so she’s getting laid off. She’s been in denial so now we’re pressed for time with just 2 months left ’til her branch closes. So yeah, we’re pretty much screwed. I’ve never really been that good at networking… or at having “friends” for that matter.

  3. Martha says:

    I would like to see focus on good letters and appropriate networking emails. Maybe use them as an example so others can learn? Let’s elevate the conversation to highlight exemplary professional interactions. Based on my experience, the majority of job seekers and/or networkers are good professional people who are trying to get back to work in an environment that is often not supportive. The letter you posted seems to be an unfortunate exception.

  4. Katy in Seattle says:

    I found this fascinating. I just sent a networking email to a long, BCC list–this protects the recipients from getting caught in other peoples lists…but I did proof it and I did ask my employment counselor to read it before I sent it…I do think this person does not have English as a first language (note the request for jobs in India) but all the more reason to find an native English speaker to do an edit! And tell us what you can do, for heaven’s sake!

  5. Pat Rhoads says:

    Paul, thanks for sharing this, if for no other reason than it was good for a good head-shaking sort of chuckle. If I had actually received it though, it would have been pretty painful to read. Of course,I do plan to share this via Twitter (unless you’d rather I didn’t fr some reason).

    Amanda, are you in the Seattle area? If so, I’d be happy to meet you for coffee, see what you mom is looking for and what her skills and background are, and see if there are connections or introductions I can facilitate for the two of you. Two months is plenty of time to start building some great relationships. I was in the same boat a little less than two years ago when I got laid off. Initially I too was in denial, but then I got out and started meeting people, and viola, found a job in less than five months, with the job I got being referred to me by a new connection I’d made. Anyway, I’d love to help if I can – let me know: Twitter: @patmrhoads, or email: patmrhoads@gmail.com

  6. What an excellent comment Pat! I appreciate your generosity toward Amanda (even though you haven’t even met her) and that’s the true way to networking and helping people.

  7. Alex Fleege says:

    Excellent advice from the professionals who practice what they preach! Your advice is always well read and well received. I have learned so much from attending your workshops and encourage all those who shell shocked (not just the Veterans) from being laid off to attend your Career Mixer Workshops.

    I have never been disappointed and really look forward to attending the next series.

    Partsmanpro@frontier.com

  8. Helen says:

    Wow. Too many people in this day and age think that decent grammar and spelling is optional in communication — a trend reflected in the deflation of tech writers’ salaries, as many companies have stopped paying for precision in written expression.

    One of my friends uses the primary excuse of, “My voicerec software isn’t fully trained yet,” (he’s too lazy to type, and wants to just talk his text into the computer, and if the reader can’t understand his stream of consciousness phrasing, they just lose). The secondary excuse is, “I didn’t see how badly it read because I didn’t look at it to proofread it, I just had the voicerec software read it back to me. It sounded fine, so I hit send.”

  9. John Bridge says:

    Difficult to read through it. Many issues with basic grammar, run on sentences, lack of flow, etc…

    I like to see (read) messages that are catchy, brief, interesting, humorous and teach me something. For the above scenario, it could start with something like “Just discovered my dream job!” then explain that you have spent a good amount of time mapping out your passions/interests and creating a model of your dream organization and role. Provide the list.

    Explain how you have applied the model to help your search to identify companies/organizations that will provide an energizing environment for you to work in.

    State that ‘you can’t wait’ for the interviewer to ask you “Why do you want to work here?” because you will pull out your personal (modeling) worksheet on how you aligned your passions/ interests/ values with that of the company’s mission and values. That will help answer that question and possibly impress the HR interviewer as well.

    In the close, have a grateful tone and say that it is great to be connected with you all (no need for apologies or explanations).

    Finally, state that you will provide a limited # of updates on how the modeling technique is working out (in short anecdotes/stories). Cap it all off with: I will be certain to inform you when I secure my next role, so watch for a post that reads “I Landed My Dream Job!”

    That is only an example of how to keep it positive and interesting. John.

  10. Mary Pk says:

    Thanks, Paul, for the afternoon chuckle. It does make me sit back and once again think not twice, but thrice, before sending out any requests for assistance!
    And Amanda, I too would like to know more about your mom and her experience. Are you, or better yet, is she on LinkedIn yet? I’ve been able to make a number of introductions via this tool which have lead to new employment for my friends. Please, link up with me, take a look at my contacts and let me know “Who may I introduce your mother to?”. Looking forward to hearing back – email me at MaryPk@MAGLoans.net or mssg me via LinkedIn. Best- Mpk

  11. Pat Rhoads says:

    Thanks for the compliment, Paul. Just paying it forward. Now if only I’d proofread my first comment a little better before posting it… 🙂

  12. Lionel says:

    Paul,

    It seems like you are not familiar with the Microsoft sense of entitlement. I have dealt with enough of these characters to know this is their mentality regarding business and life in general. Better get use to it!

  13. Rick says:

    It appears that this person may be from India, and so one might be a bit forgiving. The sad thing is that it’s not so far removed from emails I see on a semi-regular basis from people born and educated here. If you’ve seen Ken Burns’ famous video series on the Civil War, you may have been struck – as I was – by the eloquence of excerpts from letters written home by the soldiers, many of whom had only modest education. With the advent of the telephone and, later, cellular technology, writing had become something of a dying art. Then came the email, which has resurrected written communication to an unprecedented level. Unfortunately, writing technique has not enjoyed a corresponding renaissance.

  14. DJ says:

    Friends don’t let friends network as if they were texting. In today’s digital and social media communications, it’s too easy to cut, paste and forward the impressions of ourselves without a means to redact or retract the information.

    We live in an age of instantaneous consequences. So think before hitting “Send”. Or post: http://news.yahoo.com/facebook-warns-employers-dont-ask-passwords-163806953.html

    Another casualty as a resident of the ‘Texting World’ I would assume. We’re loosing a generation to a very ‘Me’-Centric’, short 3-lettered acronym attention spans, lack of relational skills, and the ability to reach out and glean feedback in a creative, positive way. You provided a prime example of this, Paul.

  15. Mark says:

    While I would never send a letter like that, I don’t look down up it or the author: albeit informally, he puts his agenda right out front.

    I try to see people for their value. Would I recommend him to a position that requires social savviness or a place where first impressions are made through Email? Not in a million years. But I am confident he has qualities that would make him an asset for the right position.

    And what of his value? Surely, just as he asks us to do something for us, I’m confident he can do things for us; for a company that needs his skills. But just because he lacks the social savviness of some, doesn’t relegate him exile — (and who knows… someone who sees his value may, very well, be able to polish the exterior…) But if you judge the book by the cover, you’ll never know the contents.

    His friends and those who know his worth and value will recommend him without hesitation for something that matches him; and those who won’t… are not his friends, nor know his worth.

  16. Colette says:

    Sadly, this is the state of our workplace today. So many people have pushed manners, grammer and basic professionalism aside. I could write a book on similar experiences I have had during the past 2 years of job searching. I was fortunate to keep contact with professionals and like-minded individuals and build a quality network. In my book it is still quality over quantity. Thanks for sharing Paul.

  17. Check out this response I received to a job I posted on eLance:

    Happy Birthday ! I would love to help with this project. Please open zip file to see some of my most recent work.

    Let me know if you need anything else…

    Whimsical maybe, but it didn’t give me a lot confidence in this person’s skills ; )

  18. Eric says:

    Actually, I would never hire this guy for any role. And although I give this individual the benefit of the doubt for a number of missteps that range from lousy grammar to lack of respect for his audience, I am scared to death thinking about the damage this person could do if he gets his wish to be a senior executive in a company that mistakenly hires him in such a role. And I really don’t need to get into the detail of how damaging a “rogue” or socially inept and self-centered senior exec can be to his employees, clients and thus the to his entire organization. I think we all have had plenty of examples of such poor excuses for leaders of billion dollar companies…

  19. Patrick McMonagle says:

    I bless everyone who networks like that.

    They put me so much closer to my ideal position.

  20. John says:

    Rick, I like your comment on the decline of interest in fine writing by by native born Americans. I’ve tutored ESL students and admire their determination to learn the language. The most touching letter in the Civil War series for me was that written by Sullivan Ballou.

  21. billddrummer says:

    Interesting article, and interesting comments.

    Most of the comments appear to be well-written, although I noticed some spelling errors (“loosing” for “losing”) and tense confusion (dual subjects with singular verbs). Overall, however, the comments stand in stark contrast with the example.

    It would be instructive to see some networking letters that actually work. Clearly, this one suffers from the law of unintended consequences–a treatise on what not to do to expand your network.

    Thanks for sharing.

  22. Jan Vafa says:

    I want to thank Drew for bringing up the possibility of a head trauma – with many returning Vets, this could be a possible answer – and their pride might prevent them from asking someone tho check what they have written. I would also like to second the requests for samples of good networking letters – I know it would really help me to see a few examples. Lastly I would like to thank John for the outline of what a better networking letter could be.