How High School Students Should Write a Cold Email
Many students may not be familiar with the term “cold email”. The closest equivalent is the term “cold call”, a term which was made popular with the classic 1992 film, “Glengarry Glen Ross” (“Coffee is for closers!”).
Both terms describe a type of unsolicited contact with a potential employer whom you have no relationship with. Usually, this is done to ask for job openings in the employer’s business. In recent years, the cold call has been seen as more intrusive and frowned upon, so students often resort to the cold email.
The purpose of a cold email for students is to personally ask an employer for work, sometimes for positions that aren’t officially listed. While this could be risky, it could lead to employment if done correctly.
Here’s some things that high school students need to know about writing cold emails to potential employers.
Why Send a Cold Email
Though it may seem like you are hurting your chances by bugging a potential employer for a job, there are many reasons why doing so may not only be necessary, but also beneficial.
A common reason why students choose to send a cold email is because there is a certain company or professor that they are dying to work with who hasn’t advertised that they are hiring.
By sending a cold email, you are showing extra initiative and interest in working for this person or business that would not have shown if you were to simply wait for an application. Some employers look favorably on candidates who take the time to contact them personally to express their desire to work there.
Furthermore, when you send a cold email, you significantly limit the number of applicants you are competing with. Whereas in a general form or application you may be competing with hundreds of qualified students like yourself, sending a cold email to express interest in working at a certain company narrows your competition only to any others who may have also cold-called the employer—likely, not many.
Similarly, you are much more likely to elicit a response from the employer if you send a cold email than if you submit a form or general application. With an application, the employer has to sift through hundreds of applications to find the right employee, and often does not bother getting back to those that are not chosen. If you make direct contact through a cold email, however, you have initiated a conversation with a potential employer that he or she is much more likely to respond to.
Finally, sending a cold email can lead to positive results. Even though the companies you email are not officially hiring, you may find that if you send enough cold emails to potential employers, something will fall into place. In other words, you may find an unexpected job opportunity at a company that you wouldn’t have even known about without contacting the company directly.
However, here is a word of caution about sending a cold email: not all employers respond well to unsolicited contact. In fact, many employers include a small caption at the end of their careers page or applications saying that they do not wish to be contacted about potential positions. Also note that the benefits of decreased competition are mitigated somewhat by the fact that the employer in question is not actively seeking to hire for any new positions, and may not be interested in taking on anyone regardless of how qualified they may be.
Therefore, if you are thinking about sending a cold email to a business, read through their careers or applications page and focus on the fine print. You don’t want to burn any potential bridges by failing to follow instructions.
How to Find Places to Contact
Great, so you’ve decided that you’re going to try sending cold emails to potential employers. The big question now is: which employers? There are a multitude of companies out there, and a good rule of thumb when contacting companies is to be sure to contact those who you care strongly about.
If you care about a company, that means that you know more about or are more interested in their work than the average applicant. These types of employers can include, but are not limited to, professors whose research you admire, a nonprofit whose cause you feel passionate about, or any other employer who is doing something that you truly want to get involved with.
The reason why it is so beneficial to reach out to these employers first is because you are much more likely to write a compelling email and make a convincing case for employment if you genuinely have a passion for working at a particular institution or business.
Need help figuring out your passions and interests? Want to develop yourself professionally? Check out our mentorship program.
Once you have sent emails to those few employers that you are more interested in, you should branch out and send emails to other companies or professors that may also be willing to hire you.
However, you should still try to have a personal relationship with whatever good or service these companies offer, so try to target those businesses that you engage with on a daily or weekly basis. Perhaps there is a particular publication that you subscribe to, an activity that you participate in often, or a private establishment that you frequent. You are more likely to send a compelling and convincing cold email to these establishments because you are personally connected to each of them.
A final way to find employers to contact is through your personal and professional network. Many of your friends, parents, friend’s parents, teachers, and neighbors are likely to have jobs or connections with companies that you could potentially contact. Using your network provides a unique advantage. An employer is more likely to read your email and consider you as an applicant if you came recommended from an adult they know and trust.
For more information about networking, see our post entitled The Introvert’s Guide to Networking in High School.
Finally, note that when you are searching for places to contact, try to be as open as possible. Do not narrow down your emails to one category of work (e.g.internships). Limiting yourself to a few employers will make your job search much less efficient.
The more employers you send cold emails to, the more likely you are to get a job. Thus, it’s important to branch out and consider other types of work opportunities, like volunteer work or part time jobs.
Tips for Writing a Cold Email
When writing a cold email, you should try to make it as personal and well-thought out as possible. To learn how to write a professional email, see our guide. For the purposes of a cold email, however, personal and professional means that every employer gets a different email or, at the very least, every employer gets a personal greeting.
The term “personal greeting” refers to the beginning of a letter or cold email (“Dear [name]”). Try to avoid putting something generic like “To whom it may concern” or “Hello”.
Spend some time searching for the right person to contact in the company. If it’s a teacher or professor—great! You already know who to contact. However, if it is a business, it may be unclear who the hiring manager is. If you can’t find a specific person to contact or you are unsure, it’s acceptable to begin your message with a generic greeting sent to a “firstname.lastname@example.org” address. However, try to address a specific person as often as possible.
After the greeting, introduce yourself and explaining why you are writing. Try to be as professional as possible and limit this part to a few sentences at most.
Last, briefly demonstrate your potential value to the company. You don’t have to have a specific role in mind, but you can simply list some functions you could perform at the company. This should be the longest part of your email, but still make sure you keep it concise. More than a paragraph is too long.
Finally, thank them for taking the time to read your email and end it. The goal is to be brief but effective. After all, nobody is going to read a long-winded email from someone they don’t know. If you keep it short, professional, and to-the-point, you will be more likely to elicit a response from the employer.
As a high school student with limited skills and experiences, you may be tempted to lie or exaggerate in your cold email, but dishonesty will get you nowhere in the long run. You should be very clear that you are a high school student in your email, so as to avoid any confusion with the company with regards to your qualifications or legal work status. If an employer does not understand that you are a high school student, you risk wasting the employer’s time by being considered for a position you are not qualified for or violating certain age laws regarding employment.
Furthermore, you should not try to inflate your skills and experiences in order to increase your chances of getting hired. Employers understand that high school students do not have many professional skills and experiences to speak of and will appreciate a student who has demonstrated positive qualities through age-appropriate activities and can speak eloquently on these experiences more than someone who exaggerates about their accomplishments.
As a high school student, the very fact that you are sending out a professional cold email is impressive in itself. If you are honest and concise in your email, you will already be giving yourself a better chance of getting hired.
What to attach with your email
As a general rule, you should not include too many attachments with your cold email. After all, the employer is already taking time out of their day to read your unsolicited message. You should try to keep your email and attachments as concise as possible.
The one thing you should always include with your email, however, is your resume. This should be a brief one page document that elaborates on the skills and experiences you briefly mentioned in your email. For information about how to write a resume, see our 5 steps to a rad resume.
If applicable, include a few materials that showcase your skills and talents as well. This could include writing samples, design samples, or any previous work that shows your capacity in a certain field. Keep these samples few in number, however, and only include the ones that are most relevant to the skills you listed in your email and those that would be most relevant to the company.
Cold emails sent by high school students for employment can be helpful in getting an impressive job that will look great on college applications. However, it needs to be done right. Remember that a cold email sent by a high school student should be concise, professional, and personalized to each prospective employer.
For more information about garnering work experience as a high school student, see our other blog posts:
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