My Cold Email to the National Palace Museum [Guest Post by Austin Yoder]
– National Palace Museum, Taipei, credit njj4
Today I bring you the story of a minor win. I think it’s important to celebrate minor wins, and this particular minor win comes with a message for anyone trying to reach out to successful/busy/expert people.
You know how people say that if you try to get in touch with people who are successful, or in positions of authority, a lot of the time those people will respond? Like you try and write a letter or an email to Bill Clinton, or some other person who inspires you, and they write back.
Yeah, I’ve heard stories like that a lot. But honestly, I’ve always found it difficult to reach out to inspiring people. It’s some kind of mental resistance. Part of me feels like I might be wasting their time. Part of me feels like there’s no chance that they’d respond to me, so why bother in the first place.
I recently cold emailed the National Palace Museum in Taipei. The National Palace Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of Chinese art and artifacts, and is considered to be one of the top five museums in the world. I didn’t set my hopes too high, but I figured what they hell – the worst that can happen is they don’t respond.
Super short backstory:
One of the projects I’m working on while in Taipei is setting up internship opportunities for my alma mater with local companies and institutions. It’s a fun way to try and help students, and it’s a fun way to meet people here in Taiwan. I can go to interesting people and companies with something potentially valuable to them: a smart American intern. After I get to go to person/company XYZ and offer something useful, hopefully I get the chance to befriend them and learn from them.
My success/fail rate: 20%
While I was working on this internship project, I sent out a bunch of emails to alums and companies that I thought might benefit from a summer intern.
4/5ths of my emails failed. No response at all.
But 1/5th of my emails worked. If life were just a simple numbers game, I feel like 20% wouldn’t be that bad…
Here’s the email I sent to the Director’s Office over at the National Palace Museum. Mediocre Chinese and whatever Chinese mistakes I made all included.
American Study Abroad Summer Internship Program (Don’t mean to be a bother!)
I apologize, my Chinese isn’t very good but I wanted to ask a question. I graduated in May and came to Taiwan to study Chinese. (I’m presently at ____ taking Chinese classes.) While I’m here I also want to help my classmates in the US who have an interest in Taiwanese culture find internship opportunities. Because your museum is so famous, and because all of my professors always said it is one of the best museums in the world, I wanted to send you this email. A few days ago I asked my Taiwanese friend to help me write up a description of the idea of our internship program, which you will find below.
Thank you so much, and I have a lot of respect for the National Palace Museum.
Next was the content describing the internship program…
A few days later I got an awesome response back from the National Palace Museum. The Director’s Office passed my email on to the right person, and boom. Now there’s a few internship spots for my alma mater at one of the best museums in the world.
I’m following up to see if I can meet some of the museum people in person. I don’t know any museum curators or staffers, and I bet there’s a ton I could learn from them. About art, history, art history, about the museum business, about import/export of precious art… the list goes on. I don’t know how kindly they’ll take to my questions, but who knows? Maybe I can make a new friend.
Like I said – 4/5ths of my emails totally failed. And this email – the one that worked- it isn’t even that good.
What was bad about the email?
I felt hesitant to put this email online. I remembered it being better and more thoughtful when I sent it off to the Director’s Office. The Chinese is awkward and is probably written like a child wrote it. I babbled a bit. I should have been more clear about why I was contacting them.
What was good about the email?
I was sincere and respectful and tried my best to communicate respect for the museum as an institution. I tried my best to communicate in the local language, even though I’m out of my element. You know, make an effort to communicate with people on their own terms. I tried to convey that the National Palace Museum is talked about and respected across the world. Who wouldn’t like to hear that their workplace is respected internationally by professors they’ve never met before?
Regardless of how good or bad the email was, and regardless of how mediocre my Chinese might be, it worked. And the fact that it worked should give you hope.
If my mediocre broken-Chinese email can be well received, and result in cool win-win opportunities for other people, think how much better you can do if you put your mind to it.
We can learn a lot from people who are more successful than we are, who occupy positions of authority, who have built or created something interesting. A friend of mine said that learning from people a little farther along than you are is like taking short cuts through life. I like that.
You can see here that you don’t have to be a genius to make it happen. My success rate for this round of cold emails was 20%. Yours might be higher or lower.
But you won’t know till you try.
And you can definitely put together an email that’s better than this one.
Question of the Day
Anyone have a success story to share about cold emails, cold calls, or otherwise cool stories about reaching out to people?