Twice now, cold emails have helped me significantly in my career. The first allowed me to gain valuable advice, which led to freelance opportunities and a summer internship. The second helped me get my current job.
And I'm not alone. Entrepreneur Adam Lyons changed his life when he contacted billionaire investor and "Shark Tank" star Mark Cuban. Lyons received a response from Cuban, who believes in the power of email, and the correspondence led to a lucrative deal for both.
Check out the five things you can learn from Lyons' experience reaching out to Cuban.
My experience may not have been quite as dramatic, but it has still been crucial to my progress.
The first time I sent one, I was a 19-year-old tennis fanatic and undergrad studying journalism, trying to figure out how to get a summer internship. Since I dreamed of writing professionally about tennis and had been writing my own blog about the sport since high school, I decided to check out profiles on LinkedIn for potential contacts.
The profile of one potential contact, Nick, stood out: Nick had interned at Tennis Magazine, a publication I had dreamed about writing for that summer. I looked at his personal website, found an email address and brainstormed my next step.
Should I send an email?, I wondered. What should I say? How long should it be? How formal should I be? What if I never get a response?
I decided to keep the email short and polite, though not overly formal. In my message, I made it clear that I had done my research, included a brief bio for myself and asked for advice. Then I waited. Thankfully, I heard back pretty soon, and our back-and-forth led to an internship as well as writing opportunities over the years.
In 2017, I saw a job description for an editor role on CNBC's Make It team. Again, I did my research and found a contact to send a cold email, which included a brief description of why I was a good fit and my resume. My future colleague ended up forwarding my email to HR.
The rest is history.
Here are 5 things I learned about how to send the kind of cold email that gets a warm response.
1. Don't be afraid of never hearing back
It happens to all of us and, yes, rejection hurts. But if you're optimistic about a potential opportunity, all you can do is try. Over the years, I've had cold emails go unanswered. That's life. I just moved on.
2. Don't be pushy
Going overboard with follow-ups can be off-putting and ensure that your communication will go unanswered. In each case above, I sent just one email and waited for a response. Notably, both of the emails I've mentioned were replied to nearly immediately: A lot of people will write you back either right away or not at all.
One follow-up a week after could be appropriate, but if your contact seems to be freezing you out, you won't thaw them by bombarding them with more emails.
3. Keep it brief
No one has time to read a novel from a stranger that's just landed in their inbox. For my emails, I wrote about three paragraphs max and asked my questions clearly and succinctly.
4. Do your research
Spend time looking up the person you're about to contact. Do a Google search. Find their LinkedIn. Convey that you bothered to figure out who they are, but don't cross the line into stalker territory. If you strike the right balance, they will be flattered rather than creeped out.
Research is especially important when figuring out who is best to reach out to in a specific organization.
5. Use a straightforward subject line
For me, I found success by keeping the headline informative. It can be fun to get creative with a subject, but I'd recommend not trying to be cute, since that could come across as over-the-top and may mean the email gets deleted without ever being read.
If you're looking for even more information before you send that cold email, check out advice from Birchbox CEO Katia Beauchamp.
"I cold-emailed every CEO of the beauty industry you can imagine," Beauchamp said at an event in February. "And it worked."