At seventeen years old, I've made an entrance into a real career very quickly. I won’t be going to college, a topic I talk about a lot in my book, The Dropout Manifesto. That's four years of "preparation" for my career that I should have had, if I had chosen to go. This means there is a lot of pressure to get a job and build a career path for myself quickly.
Foregoing college means that I have to develop an extensive network in my hometown of Austin, TX completely on my own. So, that's what I did.
In the past six months, I’ve developed relationships with partners at one of the most prestigious design firms in the world, creative directors, talented independent designers, nonprofit founders, founding principals at architectural firms, residential and commercial real estate brokers, CMOs, CTO, CFOs, CEOs, Vice Presidents and Presidents at regional and national banks, founding principals of law firms, tech startup founders, New York Times bestselling authors, agency owners, and plenty of other interesting and influential people.
I knew none of these people beforehand, and none of them are connections of my parents, friends, or teachers.
Essentially, my strategy was to 1) find their email addresses and 2) email them with an interesting email that they couldn’t help but respond to. The first challenge, of course, is finding the email addresses of influential people that I wanted to talk to. Usually, they were executives or employees of very large companies, so their emails are not listed in easy-to-find places.
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Below is an excerpt directly from The Dropout Manifesto that lists out all of the tools that I use to find email addresses and gather information on prospects:
Email is the promised land, and some of you have spent 40 metaphorical years wandering in the desert without getting in touch with any of the people who you want to get in touch with. Let’s change that.
First of all, if your email address sucks, then change it. I don’t want to see ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ in my inbox, and neither do any of the people who you want to get in touch with.
There are a couple ways to solve this problem:
You could get a new email address with a free email provider like Gmail. Just make sure that your username is simple and try not to use any numbers if you can manage. Make it simple, for Pete’s sake.
If you have your own website (which you should, if this is how you plan to build a network), then create a custom email on your domain either with G Suite (if you’re not technically inclined, ask for help) or another email program. It’s way cleaner to show up as ‘email@example.com’ than it would be to have any variation of a Gmail address.
Email will be the primary tool you use to get in touch with people, especially if you want to hear from people in a certain business space or industry. If you want to get in touch with a mega famous musician or athlete, that might be difficult due simply to the fact that they aren’t touching their email, social media, or fans at all once they get to a certain level. That’s okay, you can still use these techniques at a smaller scale to get in touch with people that are more accessible.
Oftentimes, for small-time targets (authors of relatively unknown or niche books, small local companies or startups) I can simply use Google to research the company or author and sniff around their website and look for an email address.
To test your internet sleuthing skills, try it now: go to my website and find both of my email addresses. There are two that you could use to contact me. You might have to use Google to find other sites or media platforms, but if you’re good, you’ll be able to shoot me an email at both of these addresses.
When you do, shoot me an email and I’ll respond to you! I look forward to getting in touch, even if you only ever find one of them. Sometimes, finding an email really is as simple as exploring someone’s website!
If you’re trying to get in touch with people at a tech startup, Crunchbase.com might be a good resource for you. You can look up all sorts of startups and people on Crunchbase for free, and find out how much money these startups have raised or not raised, their key players inside of the organization, news about the companies, and more.
LinkedIn + Sales Navigator
Though LinkedIn Sales Navigator is $70/month, you can do plenty without it just by using LinkedIn itself. Sales Navigator allows you to search through any person on LinkedIn and view their entire profile whether or not they are in your network. In addition to that, you can perform highly targeted searches in a certain geographic area, for certain job titles, certain types of companies and industries, certain company size, etc. This is amazingly valuable when you’ve exhausted your immediately available network and want to look for people to reach out to in an industry you’re particularly interested in.
Sales Navigator does cost money, but you can use it for free for 30 days. If you read this and take action swiftly, you could use the 30 day trial up and immensely build your network by doing lots of outreach before the 30 day trial is up, and never pay a dime.
Skrapp (https://www.skrapp.io/) is a tool used to extract sales leads from LinkedIn. I use this tool to get an email address from a LinkedIn profile. It is free up to 150 emails per month, which is more than enough for our purposes.
Skrapp is not always reliable, and sometimes it will simply fail. This is why it’s important to use LinkedIn and Sales Navigator if you can to find lots of different candidates for you to reach out to in a certain field. Out of 25, you can expect to find at least 7–10 of their emails.
Interseller (https://www.interseller.io/) is another tool that can help you extract leads from LinkedIn, and I’ve found that it is significantly more reliable than Skrapp. Interseller is a full fledged email outreach system, but for our purposes of reaching out to mentors, only part of that suite is necessary.
Without going through an entire tutorial of the program, the short explanation is that you can create sequences and add contacts to these sequences. (I highly recommend you start a free trial to see exactly what this means.) When you add a contact to this sequence, Interseller will find their email address and thus you can go ahead and email them. I would avoid automating emails or using Interseller to send hundreds of emails at a time unless you know what you’re doing and have a good reason for doing so. Stick to using Interseller for the same purpose that you might use Skrapp for.
The Harvester (https://github.com/laramies/theHarvester) is a program that scours a variety of sources to find information like subdomains (say what?), virtual hosts (say who?). The part that matters to us is that it finds email addresses. To use this tool, go ahead and install it from the GitHub repository on to your computer and open up a terminal to type:
theharvester -d <website>.com -b all -l 500
Having these tools is only half the battle of email outreach. In addition to that, you have to be able to craft great emails, tell a story with the subject line, and have a purpose for contacting your prospects, which are all difficult ventures in themselves.
You can learn more about using these tools in The Dropout Manifesto, which is where this article originally came from. You can buy the book as a paperback on Amazon or as an ebook on Gumroad.
Good luck—go get in touch with people that you would have never imagined speaking to, develop relationships with them, and build your network from there!