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Cold Contacting an Alum? Here’s What You Should Do.

No, it’s not just you: networking can feel pretty awkward at times. And chances are, most alumni might even agree with you—so if they find themselves on the receiving end of an out-of-the-blue message from you, they’ll generally respond positively as long as it’s a well-framed request. 

But before you try to Ernest Hemingway the perfect message, there are a few steps you should follow first. For starters, do some research to find an alum whose background you find interesting. Next, discover common points of interest by looking at their profile in the Alumni Directory and on LinkedIn. And finally, think about what questions you’d like to ask. Once you’ve gathered all this information, you’re ready to draft your message.

What to include in your cold contact message to an alum

  • Who: Start things off with a brief intro about yourself. After all, this is a chance for the alum to get to know you, too.
  • How: Mention how you found the alum and their contact information (LinkedIn? Alumni Directory? Mutual acquaintance?).
  • Why: Explain why you’re interested in speaking with them, including what you have in common—like Stanford student group, major or industry—and what you’d like to learn from them.
  • What’s next: Ask if they’re available for a 20-minute chat to discuss their work and/or career path in the next couple of weeks. 
  • Thanks: Of course, you’ll want to wrap up your message by thanking the alum for considering your request. 

What not to include in your cold contact message to an alum

  • Don’t ask for a job or for funding. 
  • Don’t send a LinkedIn request without a message about why you want to connect.  
  • Don’t contact alumni for commercial or political reasons.
  • Don’t share their contact information with others without their permission. 

A few reminders about cold contacting

  • Keep your initial message short and sweet.
  • Be flexible and schedule around the alum’s availability. 
  • Be patient. Wait a week for the alum to respond; if you don’t hear back by then, send a follow-up asking if they have 15 minutes to talk—or, if not, if there’s someone they can refer you to for a career conversation. Still no response? It’s time to move on to another contact.

Whether it’s your first time cold contacting an alum or whether you’ve lost count by now, prepping for that initial contact is the best way to set yourself up for success. And remember, you’re not in it alone—SAA is here to help you every step of the way. Keep reading below for some sample messages to get you started.

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Sample Emails and LinkedIn Messages for Cold Contacting Alumni

Email Request for Informational Interview (Example #1)

Email Request for Informational Interview (Example #2)

LinkedIn Request for Informational Interview