1. Never ask for things you could do yourself. Try to put yourself in the position of the recipient of your email. “I got this email from a student once who knew I had done some research on Philips,” recounts Insead's Networker Par Excellence. He asked her to give him all her research notes. “But you can’t ask alumni to do your homework for you!”
2. Make your email stand out: Alumni get hundreds of emails from students asking for help. The Networker Par Excellence once send one to a senior alumni starting with: “You probably graduated from INSEAD when I was still in my diapers, and I’m quite nervous to ask for your help, but I was hoping that you could give me some advice on…” It worked.
3. Offer something in return: When writing an email to the CEO from “MotherCare”, Networker Par Excellence gave him some critical feedback that her five-year-old son had given her about the company’s stores. It was useful for the Chief executive, and ensured she got a positive response. “This kind of personal connection and interest is crucial,” she says.
4. Take them down memory lane. Writing a general letter about your personal experiences at business school and sending it to alumni will trigger their nostalgia. As a bonus, it might make them remember your name. After writing one of these emails Networker Par Excellence got an impressive response “especially from people who graduated in the 60s and 70s.”
5. And, finally, if you are lucky enough to get a positive response: Don’t forget to send a thank you note.