When reaching out to alumni or other contacts to set up networking meetings, keep in mind that all the principles of keeping your message concise and focused apply here, too.

Effective networking involves making a connection with others; it's not just about you getting help in your job search. For this reason, keep your focus on scheduling some time to have a 15- to 30-minute conversation to obtain information, gather advice or get feedback around a particular set of questions or issues.

If you focus entirely on finding a job opportunity and indicate that the reason you're writing is to get help or advice on how best to get hired into the company, you're probably asking to be forwarded directly to HR. Instead, focus on asking for help or advice that this person can assist with, whether it's insight into the company culture, or an opportunity for you to learn about that person's career path and particular experience.

It's best to keep your initial email pretty simple:
  1. State your connection. ("I found your name in the Kellogg Alumni Directory and I'm an alumnus as well.")
  2. Introduce yourself briefly. This is probably not the place to give an overview of your career path.
  3. Indicate why you've contacted this person. Be clear and specific.
Do not attach a copy of your resume. You might make the recipient defensive and he or she might be tempted to simply push your email off to HR instead of talking with you. And remember, ask the recipient for help he or she can give you. While most people you contact won't necessarily know of a job opening, they will be able to give advice, offer information or provide feedback based on their experiences.