It’s the time of year when a large group of people with similar skill sets start looking for jobs. Whether you’re hoping to assist, or second shoot, or work in a studio, you’re going to need to stand out and make contact. I’ve sent and received my fair share of this kind of email, to mixed results. Here are some tips for getting ahead in the job market via email.
I’d say most business contact is made by email these days. This can be great (it’s convenient, you can take your time making a good impression) but also not great (it can be hard to read tone, and it’s more difficult to make an impression.
1) Use a professional email address. If you don’t have one, get one. An email at your own domain is awesome (ie email@example.com), but some variation of your name at gmail or hotmail is acceptable too (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com…..something like that). Most anything else says you don’t take this very seriously. I will not hire firstname.lastname@example.org
2) Be polite. I don’t know you, therefore you’re a stranger. Be respectful and polite; I don’t care how good you are at your job; I don’t owe you anything, so you should be trying to win me over. If you do know me (we met that one time at that thing……) it’s appropriate to remind me of how I might know you. If I liked you when I met you, you already stand out from the pile of strangers.
3) Be professional. Use full sentences. Write the full word. (‘U’ is not an acceptable form of ‘you’). Don’t call me dude. Sign your last name. Make sure to include your contact information. Seriously.
4) Have a personality. This can be a fine line when considered with the point above. Being funny can come across as being rude, especially because it can be hard to interpret tone in an email. To stand out from other applicants, tell me something interesting about yourself, but don’t make it something too unrelated. You just got back from a bike tour of the east coast where you were working on a documentary? Cool. You just buried your childhood dog and you’re really sad about it? Inappropriate. If you’re not sure if something’s appropriate, err on the side of being professional.
5) Show me, don’t tell me. Provide a link to your work. If you’re going to talk a big game about your retouching skills, show me a portfolio page of before and afters. If you want to second shoot with me on my clients’ weddings, send me a link to your own wedding work.
6) Don’t burn bridges. This goes hand in hand with being polite. If I’ve said I’m not looking for any assistants right now but that I’ll keep you in mind, I will. A good response is something like “Thanks for taking the time to look at my work. I’d love it if you’d keep me in mind for any future opportunities.” A bad response is: “I can’t believe you don’t want to hire me. I showed you how good my work was. You’re crazy if you don’t see my talent. What’s wrong with my work?” (True story; I got this email after telling someone that we were not able to offer them a position at this time. Totally unappealing reply.)
7) Follow up. So much of getting work is being in the right place at the right time. Stay on the radar of people you want to work with. Email them when you’ve updated your website, or invite them to shows you’re having. You never know what’s going on at their end, and your email could come at the perfect time to remind them of your qualifications.
8) Keep trying. Use any feedback you get to craft stronger letters and applications. Applying for jobs sucks, but head down and power through – you can do it! Good luck.