Photo by Alan Light (with Adam West!)
When we get out of college, we usually take any job we can get.
After all, it’s not what we’re going to be doing for the rest of our lives, right?
But after several years, something begins to shift. Some people’s careers skyrocket out of the blue.
They suddenly get a huge promotion. Or get featured in the press. Or work with celebrities. They start to get tons of opportunities thrown at them, while everyone else complains that there are “no jobs left” in this economy. They land jobs they love so much they can’t stop talking about them, while so many others drag themselves out of bed everyday to go “back to the grind.”
What are they doing differently?
I can tell you this: It’s not because they tried harder, lived in the right place, went to the right school, or got some magical credential.
Here’s what they did behind the scenes: They built an authentic relationship with one powerful person, then got into their inner circle.
This is the secret behind almost every one of these stories.
Take Ryan Holiday as an example. In college, he built a relationship with Tucker Max, then started working for Robert Greene. Eventually, he became the Director of Marketing at American Apparel before he even graduated college.
I could go on, but you get the picture. Every successful career starts with reaching out to just one powerful person the right way.
So today I’m going to show you three ways I’ve reached out to successful people (including AoC’s Jordan Harbinger, Grammy Award-winning artist Chamillionaire, and author Ryan Holiday) and why those communications worked, right down to the exact email scripts.
Let’s get started!
Offer an idea or a suggestion.
First, you need to figure out precisely what this person needs or wants at this moment. What questions are they tackling? Which challenges are they facing?
Here’s how I like to do this: Read their blog, watch their interviews on YouTube, listen to their podcasts, read their bookmarked articles on Delicious, and check out stuff they post on social media.
This way, you’ll know exactly what’s on their mind — at least publicly.
If you dig deep enough, you’ll eventually read or hear them say things like “I wish I had X,” or “I’m working on Y and it’s a pain.”
For example, I heard Jordan talk about how important iTunes reviews were to him on several of his podcasts, so I reached out with an idea for how he could get more reviews.
Notice how this email is not critical, but constructive. A surprising number of people come off as condescending when giving feedback — an easy pitfall to avoid.
Here’s a sample email script you can use:
I’m a big fan! Love your [blog, podcast, book, etc.] and all the great material you share.
I noticed on [specific tweet, post, comment, etc.] that you mentioned you wanted more of [X]. Here’s a quick idea I thought of that might help:
[Share your idea in one or two sentences]
Just thought I’d share this with you — hope you find it helpful!
Free and easy advice is difficult to ignore, so try this out, and notice how often people respond in kind.
Offer to make an introduction.
If you don’t have the right solution to their problems, then maybe you know someone who does. Maybe the person you’re trying to reach needs help with marketing, and you know a great marketer. Or maybe they’re trying to dress better, and you know a great stylist.
Notice how this is super authentic. You’re not being manipulative or sleazy here — you’re just being helpful.
I used this exact technique to reach out to Grammy award-winning rap artist Chamillionaire. I knew that he was traveling to San Francisco to meet with some tech entrepreneurs and investors, and I happened to know some prominent venture capitalists in the area.
So I sent him an email offering to make an introduction to a VC I knew. (By the way, I didn’t have any fancy tricks to get his email address — I just signed up for his public email list, and responded to one of his emails.) As it turned out, Chamillionaire and the VC happened to cross paths at a networking conference. He showed her my email and started a conversation.
Two big things to keep in mind when offering to make an introduction:
- Always say what’s in it for the busy person — they’ve got a ton of people who want to meet them, so why should they take you up on an intro?
- Ask the more “powerful” person first if they’d like to be introduced.
A surprisingly low number of people actually take action on what they read. So many people are information addicts. They consume podcasts, books, articles, and then do absolutely nothing — which is missing a huge opportunity.
But when you actually implement someone’s advice and then tell them about it, you instantly position yourself as a top performer in their mind.
This is how I reached out to Ryan Holiday (again, through the email address on his mailing list). Ryan reads a ton of books, and keeps a notecard system to remember everything he reads. I also read a lot and have trouble remembering everything, so I took his advice, and told him about it, and sent him a picture of my notecards.
This is by far the easiest (and probably most satisfying) way you can reach out to a busy person. And when you think about it, you’re really doing yourself the favor by taking their advice!
Connecting the Dots
For now, I want to leave you with a simple next step: Find one person a couple of levels above you with whom you’d like to connect, and reach out to them in one of the three ways I’ve outlined above.
I’m confident you’ll be surprised and inspired by the responses you’ll receive — and the relationships you build — which are the lifeblood of a great career.