The other day, I was chatting with my friend about a piece I was writing on the annoyance of the unannounced email introduction. She sighed and said that as a current job seeker she could relate; she had no other choice but to send cold emails to hiring managers and recruiters at companies she was eyeing.
No, no, I explained. I’m not talking about that, a move that I support, especially when it’s done correctly. I’m referring to that thing when someone you know suddenly sends you an email introducing you to her colleague, friend, or brother who she thought you should meet for whatever reason. The reason for the e-intro truly doesn’t matter. The point is that you never saw it coming. “That’s ambush right there,” is how my friend described it.
Here’s the thing: Maybe it would be beneficial for you to meet Mike. It could be that he has something that would further along your project, or maybe he’s someone who'd be a good fit for the freelance spot you’ve been trying to fill. That’s all fine and well, but it ignores the fact that our email addresses, like our phone numbers, aren’t meant to be given out at random. More often than not, it’s impossible for me to see whether or not the forced connection is one I even care to pursue because I’m annoyed by the approach. And I know from experience, I’m not the only person who reacts this way.
In all fairness, I’ve little doubt that the introducer has good intentions. He may see a natural relationship and think he’s doing the two of you a favor in connecting the dots, but the reality of the situation is that few of us can see the well-intentioned message beyond our irritation at the rookie move. I’d even go so far as to call the surprise e-intro unprofessional. And, unfortunately, for the other party, she probably has no clue that you weren’t primed. She’s the real victim, an innocent bystander.
Does that mean I never want to be introduced to people? Especially people who could help me? Of course not! When I receive an email from a colleague or acquaintance asking me if it’s OK if I’m introduced to so-and-so, I’m always game. In fact, Muse COO, Alex Cavoulacos calls this the double opt-in intro and provides a template for exactly how you should do it. Then, she provides an additional template for how you should connect your friends once you have both parties’ permission.
When the introduction is proposed, rather than dropped in my lap, er, inbox, I have time to digest the purpose of bringing the new contact into my life, and I can consider when I have time to chat. If the intro wouldn’t have any immediate bearing on my current work or projects, and I’m insanely busy when the request comes through, I might write back, “Sure, I’d be happy to meet Jocelyn, but mind if we hold off until the end of the month? I’m swamped right now and don’t want to not give her my full attention. Thanks!” Now, everyone’s on the same page: You, me, and Jocelyn.
I can’t think of a single time when I declined an introduction when asked for permission beforehand, and I imagine I’m not alone in this. This anecdotal fact bodes well for you if you’re the connector. The best way to get positive results—and come out of the situation looking like an all-star networker with awesome contacts—is to simply ask first.
Stacey Lastoe is the Senior Editor/Writer of The Muse. She started writing short stories in the second grade and is immensely grateful to have the opportunity to write and edit professionally. Her work has appeared in YouBeauty, Refinery29, A Practical Wedding, Runner's World online, and The Billfold among other publications. She enjoys running and eating in equal measure and lives with her husband and dog in Brooklyn. All three of them are avid New York Mets fans. Say hello on @stacespeaks.More from this Author