The connection request that changed my lifeFeatured

I just landed a senior design role at a Fortune 500 company. How? By sending a connection request to a candidate that I interviewed a few months ago.

If you are losing faith in the job search and struggling with rejection after rejection, start connecting with people who you admire and respect.

As a first generation, woman of color from a low-income background that struggled to graduate from an Ivy League — I quickly learned that my career would be propelled by who I knew.

When I graduated, I knew next to nothing about networking. But I noticed a lot of my more affluent peers had parents and mentors teaching them how to network: what to say and who to say it to. Talk about a leg up! As a result, my life’s mission is to be that person for historically excluded people who need it.

I am going to share some networking moves I’ve made along my career path that have taken me further than any resume, cover letter, or online course when faced with rejection.

Let’s set the scene: You’ve just been rejected for what feels like the 1000th time. Now what?

Step 0: Take a deep breath and ground yourself before taking any further action

Step 1: Request feedback and play to your strengths

Following up after being rejected and clear feedback was provided upfront (seeking strong interaction design) – Director of Design

My response: ​​Hi there, [director_name]! It was my pleasure learning about your design philosophy around competitive markets and what truly differentiates a product. Thank you for your transparency. My strengths are definitely in the systems thinking and information architecture space, but rest assured - I will continue brushing up my UI skills. I hope that you find your perfect fit in the meantime and I can’t wait to see what [company_name] does next. Sincerely, [your_name]

The result: We connected on Linkedin and they offered to contact me in Fall 2022 with a role that is more aligned with my research background.

Requesting feedback after being rejected – Recruiter

My response: Hi [recruiter_name], thanks for getting back to me! Do you have any feedback regarding my candidacy? I would love to know what your CTO thought about my strengths and room for improvement after meeting with him. Kindly, [your_name]

The result: They haven’t responded… yet! Win some, lose some.

The scene: They may or may not reply BUT you just developed a professional skill! Requesting feedback and incorporating it into your career demonstrates a desire to learn!

Step 2: Make asks of your existing network

Asking a college alum to chat about a position at their company – Product Manager

My ask: Hey [alum_name], how are you? I am reaching out because I recently found a role at [alum_company_name] that I am hoping to learn more about. I see that you transitioned from operations to product and so did I (except I went the research and design route). Would you be willing to chat about Product @ [alum_company_name], specifically relationships between mgmt, research, design and operations? I’ve included the role, if you’re interested. Thanks for reading and I look forward to connecting with you! [url_link] Sincerely, [your_name]

The result: They responded and connected me with their design colleagues.

Asking a bootcamp alum for advice in the design industry – Product Designer

My ask: Hello [alum_name], I graduated [grad_year] and am reaching out because I noticed you recently joined [company_name] as a [job_title]. I would love to learn about your experiences with the company thus far as I prepare to apply for the role. Would you be available for a 30 min chat this week? Best, [your_name]

The result: They responded and as I am writing this, I am learning that they referred me for a role at their company, in an industry we are deeply invested in!

Asking an ex-coworker to introduce me to one of their connections – Recruiter

My ask: Hi [excoworker_name], I hope you’re doing well at [company_name], love to see how our careers have grown after [our_old_company]! I noticed you were connected to [connection_name] and I was wondering if you would be open to making an introduction? I really love (connection_company] and would appreciate the opportunity to connect with someone from there to get some facetime. [linkedin_url] Thanks so much, [excoworker_name]!

The result: They introduced me to their connection and I had a great chat about working towards a mission as a significant career motivator.

The scene: These asks may take a while to gain returns BUT you just earned yourself a little more courage and confidence when looking to your community for support!

Step 3: Send connection requests to random people and companies you admire

Cold connection request to a company I admire – Recruiter

My request: Hi! Reaching out to learn more about Design @ [company_name], particularly the team’s challenges and hopes for the future. I’ve been interested in [company_name] since learning about their pandemic solutions and the QR code menu takeover. Do you have 20 min to chat this week or next? Kindest regards, [your_name]

The result: They connected with me and now it’s on me to set the time and date!

Cold direct message to a person that posted in a #job-board channel, I followed up after they didn’t respond to my original message – Design Lead

*forwards the original post to the author’s DMs* with a message addressing no response

Second attempt: Hey [designlead_name], I'm circling back on this to express my excitement to connect with you regarding [company_name]’s culture and how designers contribute to it. Would you be willing to further discuss the role in a 20 min chat this week? If so, I'd be happy to send a calendar invite. Thank you and I look forward to speaking with you!

The result: They connected with me. I update them every time I progress in my career because they asked me to – it’s nice to feel like people are invested in my success.

Cold connection request to a person I admire – Director of Product Management

My request: Hi [director_name], seeking to connect after reading your post about living and working in alignment with your values. I’d love to chat about what “Keep Commerce Human” has looked like for you and how your team is planning to advance [company_name]’s product mission. Thank you! Sincerely, [your_name]

The result: They connected with me and the ball is in my court.

Cold connection request to a person I admire – Dean of Design

My request: ​​Hi [director_name], I recently read your Fast Company interview and was deeply moved by your conversation around design anthropology and decolonization. I would love to connect as a fellow anthropologist thinking about (un/re)designing systems of oppression in everyday experience. Thank you, [your_name]

The result: They connected with me. One of the most fulfilling career conversations I have ever had and one of the most impressive people I have ever spoken to!

The scene: They may or may not reply BUT you just honed your skills, interests, and goals into a storytelling template for more cold emails. And when they do reply, the satisfaction will be sweet!

Step 4: Open your eyes to networking opportunities in your everyday life

If you’re not employed, look into your life.

  • When was the last time you attended a professional networking event?
  • Have you been taking recreational classes in or near a tech hub?
  • Do you frequent a cafe that hosts local events that seem interesting?

If you’re employed, look into your organization.

  • Is there an automated coffee chat matchmaking bot?
  • Does your company have a recurring happy hour?
  • Have you been spending a lot of time interviewing amazing talent?

Step 5: Rinse and repeat

Connection request I sent to a candidate that I interviewed and had taken an offer elsewhere – Director

My request: Hi! Seeking to connect as I deeply appreciated your approach to problem-solving as well as your desire to humanely connect with your peers through their work and interests. Crestfallen that you won’t be joining our team but looking forward to what you do next. Best, Gabrielle

The result: Three months later, I received an email in my inbox.

✨ “The [Fortune 500 company] Design team would like to speak with you!”✨

It was the only offer I received. And it was the only offer I needed.

Keep going until you get your yes.

So you can start sending notes like this:

✨ Hello, [recruiter_name]! Thanks for reaching out with this amazing opportunity. At this time, I have accepted a role and am no longer searching. But I would be happy to learn more about the opportunity to share with members of my network. Please let me know however I can help. Sincerely, [your_name]✨

Step 6: Share your journey

I hope you found these networking notes helpful! Share your own networking moments in the comments and I’ll be sure to reply. Same goes for any questions, comments, or concerns. Thanks for reading and good skill in your job search!

Sincerely, Gabrielle

joannarutter's profile thumbnail
These templates are so helpful!!! Elpha, can we have a library of templates like this??
gabriellefeliciano's profile thumbnail
That would be a really cool idea, would love to see how others connect/shoot their shot!
kalpanac's profile thumbnail
The investment in every communication is so well-researched and put together very nicely. Kudos and more power to you.
gabriellefeliciano's profile thumbnail
Thank you so much, I always try to find those common interests or concrete topics for discussion to reel potential connections in!
ebonywoodard's profile thumbnail
Happy birthday and congrats baby @gabriellefeliciano πŸ«ΆπŸ½β€οΈπŸ™ŒπŸΌ
gabriellefeliciano's profile thumbnail
Thank you, Ebony - showing me what a real business woman looks like!! ❀️
MaryMateo's profile thumbnail
Thanks so much for posting this. I’ve always struggled to network and ask people for help, but your examples will give me a head start.
gabriellefeliciano's profile thumbnail
It was my pleasure! Remembering to research, be gracious, and be yourself is my biggest advice for tailoring.
stutigovil's profile thumbnail
This is such a useful post! Thank you Gabrielle!!
gabriellefeliciano's profile thumbnail
Thanks for your kind words! I’m open to any additional feedback and advice the Elpha community has to offer πŸ’ͺ🏼
michellesmanifesto's profile thumbnail
Wow, I'm blown away by your share! Networking can feel icky at points, especially with cold outreaches. The worst that happens is they don't respond, time moves on, and you get better at it the more you do it. I also second the idea of a library of templates βœ…
gabriellefeliciano's profile thumbnail
I completely agree, asking a random person for anything can feel very uncomfortable. I have found that being specific with my ask and thoughtful in my approach has increased the chances that they will respond! Events, articles, and interviews are all things that can be uniquely mentioned.
TheWriteToole's profile thumbnail
Does anyone have an outline for the actual 20-minute chat?Similarly, is there an outline for a peer networking conversation?
gabriellefeliciano's profile thumbnail
I think peer networking should be kept extremely casual to leave room for potential friendship. I could write an outline but to keep it short: Select three interesting things on the person’s Linkedin. They can be commonalities or things you think are cool. And let your interest shine when asking questions and connecting during the chat. 4 strong questions will usually get you through the time!
TheWriteToole's profile thumbnail
What should you have prepared to discuss, assuming your conversation partner has not taken your linkedin advice as well? ;)
gabriellefeliciano's profile thumbnail
I would say generally, in this order: 1. Introduction about yourself2. Common interest 13. Common interest 24. Ask5. CloseIf your conversation partner is not reciprocating your excitement or interest, try not to take it personally (anything could be happening on their end) but reasses if there might be other people more in alignment with you and your ask.
MariaArell's profile thumbnail
These templates are incredibly helpful - thank you so much for sharing!
gabriellefeliciano's profile thumbnail
Thanks for reading and offering such positive feedback!
lisalanasa's profile thumbnail
First of all, congratulations on your new position within a company that you admire and aligns with your values! Your success is certainly not by accident. Thanks for posting these wonderful examples and starting scripts. Many people focus on networking when we need something, but truly it should be a consistent part of our business and personal life.
gabriellefeliciano's profile thumbnail
Thank you so much, I am so excited to learn more about design in my new role! And I agree, the easiest way to get comfortable is to practice, preferably in a low pressure context.
@gabriellefeliciano: I am very floored by the clarity and templates! I must admit, I have often felt that if I knew these skills back in my 20's then I'd be at a whole different place right now. Anyhow -- any tips on how to network in a networking event and leave an impression? That's always been my weakness. (Writing anonymously only because I am too embarrassed to admit that I need help in this area -- because ordinarily I come across as a savvy and extroverted woman).
gabriellefeliciano's profile thumbnail
Thanks so much for your support and for sharing your experience! I think when it comes to a networking event, being honest and listening are two very important tactics. I think we can be honest by letting our conversation partner know that we're trying to learn more about them and what we might share in common, nothing more nothing less. Reciprocity is key! Leaving an impression is all about the thank you note later in the day, here's an example: "Hello [networking-event_connection], thanks for connecting! I really enjoyed speaking with you about our shared background in Anthropology and my most recent design endeavors with the app debacle.[insert quip / something like about a topic you discussed in person]. Looking forward to staying in touch, Gabrielle" They responded and we have stayed connected for the last three years.