How to cold mail your way up the career ladder

A quick email or LinkedIn message can go a long way...

Sometimes in your career, or for a business, 'route one' can be the best way to go.

Here are two stories that serve as reminders that it can be a good idea to 'fire off' a speculative email.


Last year we sat down with Brendan O’Driscoll, the co-founder of Soundwaves - an Irish music streaming app which was snapped up by Spotify.

The app was built to allow users to see what their friends were listening to, to track listening trends, and to explore what music was popular in different areas.

Early on they realised that whether they wanted to attract an influential investor or to work with a company like Apple, they needed to establish contact with the right people:

"It’s massively important - it was a learnt trait as well. We understood the necessity of it at an early stage. We needed to get above the noise and what we recognised through trial and error was that one of the fastest ways to do that was to try to find a direct line between us and whoever we needed to get us to where we needed to go," he told Newstalk.

"Whether It was a high-profile investor like Mark Cuban who would bring a lot of attention or an executive like Eddie Cue [top Apple executive] who was able to open door from a technology point of view or from a product point of view," Brendan continued.

He had this word of advice: "It’s something that I’d try to encourage people to do is to figure out what their problem is [obstacles between you and what you want] - figure out who the expert in that problem is - our who the ‘gatekeeper is’ - and go direct to source. Email them, or contact them on LinkedIn - or try and get in front of them."

The company managed to secure an investment from Mark Cuban (the serial investor who owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball franchise) and got to meet Eddie Cue who's the iTunes Store and Apple Music boss.

Sometimes it doesn't hurt to ask

Kathryn Minshew, co-founder and CEO of The Muse - a start-up which offers job listings and career advice - recently spoke about hiring an employee after receiving an off the cuff LinkedIn message.

Elliott Bell sent her this mail (taken from her book, 'The New Rules of Work'):

Hi Kathryn,

While slightly out of place, I attended the Women 2.0 conference yesterday with EatDrinkJobs and had the chance to see you pitch. I was blown away by you, your team, and most of all, your company.

I spent six years at, working closely with amazing leaders like Jason Finger (who you know well). I see such amazing potential in your company, and I would love to be a part of it in any way. My primary focus in marketing, with a lot of experience marketing to the same corporations and users you seem to be attracting. I'd love to tell you more about how my skill set could help you all reach and exceed your current growth goals.

Congrats on all your current success. Again, I'd love to find a time to chat more about the company and tell you how I could help.



Speaking to Business Insider she explained why this message was so effective:

  • It was personal and referenced seeing her speak
  • He complimented her and the business
  • It outlined why he was specifically excited about her company
  • His relevant experience was condensed into two sentences
  • He directed her to a mutual connection who she could contact to ask about him
  • The message wasn't too needy or pushy

He got a job with the company a few months after sending the message.

So if you're planning a career change or looking for an upgrade - find out who you need to talk to and shoot them a mail. You never know.