The Five Emails You Need to Send Before New Year’s to Boost Your Career
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The Five Emails You Need to Send Before New Year’s to Boost Your Career

There’s no better time than now to refresh your roster of professional contacts

By RAY A. SMITH
Wed, Dec 21, 2022 9:16amGrey Clock 4 min

Yes, you’re busy checking off your year-end, to-do list. But here’s an easy item to add that could pay dividends down the road: connect with five people who, in different ways, could boost your career in 2023.

There’s no better time of year than right now to power up that roster of professional allies. So many people have changed jobs, and entire careers, recently that even the strongest networks need some tending. And while the job market remains strong, the number of companies embarking on layoffs is climbing, and many business leaders predict more job cuts are coming.

It can be daunting to message someone you haven’t spoken to in years or develop a distant contact into a relationship. Here are five people to email, with scripts to do it gracefully.

1) A member of your inner power circle

These are the professional Samaritans for when you need urgent advice, job leads or referrals—and fast. Ask yourself who could help if you were suddenly laid off, and get results?

Try this quick exercise to figure out who belongs here: Imagine you’ve just learned your job is on the chopping block. Take five minutes to write the names of six to eight people you would email first for help.

These are folks who know you well—close colleagues, former co-workers, mentors. Focus your list on the half-dozen who are enthusiastic networkers and have a proven record delivering good intel on industry developments.

Pick one person to email. Remember, this is someone you’d have no qualms asking to tap his or her network on your behalf—so don’t sweat the email too much. Ask them to lunch or a drink in the new year, or a 20-minute catch-up call.

Be clear about why you want to connect. You’re considering ways to grow your career, and would love his or her advice. Or, you want to hear about his recent transition to a new field because you’re interested in a similar move.

2) The influencer

Next, pick a strategic contact you know could be helpful to your career…if only you had a more solid rapport.

Don’t waste valuable words in the opening on compliments or lengthy explanations.

Make your ask, quickly and politely. And please avoid the cliché phrase, “Can I pick your brain?” Instead, try one of the following:

  • “I’d really appreciate your insight because you’ve been there.”
  • “I heard you speak/enjoyed what you wrote/liked what you said at the meeting, especially___. I would love to hear more.
  • “I’ve followed your work closely. What you did with____really resonated with me because I’m doing something similar.”

Point out any shared experiences, and be specific. You went to the same university, or are both women who trained in civil engineering. Mentioning commonalities might give them a better sense of how to help you.

“If you’re an Air Force Academy grad and you ask for time, I’m going to find it,” says Trier Bryant, co-founder of workplace consulting firm Just Work and an Academy grad who spent more than 15 years in the military.

3) The VIP

This is a higher-level professional with the ability to open the right doors, or get you to someone who can. It could be a fast-rising executive in your network. The former boss of your boss. That entrepreneur who commented on your LinkedIn post.

If you’ve never met, can a mutual acquaintance connect you? If so, offer to craft the note, or go ahead and send a brief paragraph on your bona fides and goals to guide them.

Get to the point quickly about who you are and what you want. The goal is to have your target respond “thoughtfully, in the moment, rather than delaying it indefinitely,” says Dorie Clark, an author who teaches executive education at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Columbia Business School.

For example: “I’m looking to go in this direction in my career and would like your advice.” Or, “I’m interested in how you overcame this business challenge as I navigate this industry.”

Make it easy for them to accept your request. “If you ask for a phone call, make it a 10-minute phone call,” Ms. Clark says.

4) That long-lost contact

Cue the awkwardness! You haven’t talked to this person in years and suddenly you’re parachuting into their inbox, hoping they’ll remember you and, ideally, forget how much time has passed since you’ve been in touch.

Don’t dance around the fact that it’s been a while, just embrace it, says Aimee Cohen, who runs Minneapolis executive-coaching and leadership-development firm ON Point Next Level Leadership. She’s opened notes with “Blast from the past,” or “I know you might faint at seeing my name in your inbox but___.”

You can also play on the pandemic whirlwind of the past few years: “I know that it’s only been three years but it feels like 100 since we’ve last connected.”

Make clear that you remain clued into their interests and expertise, and could be helpful. For example: “I’d love to catch up and hear more about what you’re on the hunt for these days.” Or, “I know it’s been a while, but I saw this podcast about triathlons and immediately thought of you. Are you still competing?”

The classic error is to reach out after a significant amount of time with a direct ask, such as wanting help with a job search or a recommendation. You want to be approaching them, “from a position of power, not panic,” Ms. Cohen says. Explain that you’re not looking yet, but would love to learn more about their role and experience.

5) The departing co-worker

When a co-worker says goodbye, it’s an opening. “Leaving a job is a moment of vulnerability” no matter how fabulous their next step is, says Michele Woodward, a Washington, D.C.-area executive coach.

Reaching out immediately is best, but responding to a goodbye note from further back can work, too. Try starting with, “I made a note to ask you what the first 90 days was like,” Ms. Woodward suggests, or, “I made a note to ask you how work is going.”

You could also pose a timely question such as, “How are you all handling return-to-office over there?” The goal is to reconnect, picking up where you left off and moving the relationship forward.

Plan for the Future

Master the cadence of keeping up with different kinds of contacts. Here’s how often Ms. Cohen, the executive coach in Minneapolis, recommends touching base:

  • Close contacts (your team colleague turned friend who left for a different company): Monthly
  • Midlevel contacts (The boss you worked with for a year before they got transferred to another department): Quarterly
  • Extended contacts (The guy from accounting you used to joke with by the water cooler): Twice yearly
  • Acquaintances (A vendor you worked with once, years ago): Annually, sending them a note around the holidays, for example

Set a goal of contacting three contacts every week. They can be someone already in your network who’s due for their check-in, or someone new you’re adding to the rotation.

—Kathryn Dill contributed to this article.



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How the Middle East Became the Latest ‘Gold Rush’ in Marketing

The Middle East is set to be the fastest-growing marketing region in the world, driven by momentum in countries such as Saudi Arabia

By MEGAN GRAHAM
Tue, Jun 18, 2024 5 min

Saudi Arabia’s fledgling advertising industry and continued growth in the sector in the United Arab Emirates are helping to make the marketing business in the Middle East the fastest-growing in the world.

Ad spending in the Middle East is projected to increase 8.1% to $6.6 billion this year, up from 3.5% last year, according to advertising research firm WARC.

That expansion is building from a much smaller base than in many other ad markets. The Netherlands alone will generate $6 billion in ad spending in 2024, up about 2.3%, WARC said. But it is also enough to outpace every other region in 2024, the firm said.

“It reminds me almost of the gold rush,” said Reda Raad , chief executive of TBWA\Raad Group, an ad agency based in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, that is part of the U.S.-based ad holding company Omnicom Group . “I don’t think we’re going to see this type of growth again in our lifetime.” TBWA\Raad has won eight new clients over the past year, with an increase in head count of 17% to accommodate the new work, Raad said.

Some international brands have long maintained a presence in the region. PepsiCo has considered the area a strategic market for decades, said Karim Elfiqi , senior vice president and chief marketing officer at PepsiCo Africa, Middle East and South Asia. Sponsorship deals with local stars such as Mohamed Salah , a soccer player from Egypt, “are a testimony of how over time, we have been part of the cultural fabric of the region,” Elfiqi said.

Other major brands have formed a more recent focus on the Middle East. The Lego Group opened a Middle East and Africa headquarters in Dubai in 2019, citing the size of the region’s young population. That office has developed work such as a Ramadan-themed campaign that ran in the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia, among other locations.

‘Massive growth’

The Middle East’s ad market has lagged behind regions such as North America and Europe partly because of stricter cultural norms and regulations that affected business, as did a more limited media landscape and economic instability, according to Raad.

But marketing growth in the region is now being driven in part by newfound marketing interest in Saudi Arabia, where ad spending this year is expected to reach $2.1 billion, nearly double its level in 2019, according to WARC. Growth is also coming from the U.A.E., whose ad market is expected to reach $1.7 billion in 2024. Smaller contributors include Qatar and Kuwait.

The landscape has changed now because of economic diversification, increased connectivity and a move into the digital world, leading international brands to enter and invest in campaigns tailored to the region, Raad said.

Four years ago, Saudi Arabia made up a small proportion of business at Lightblue, a creative experience and tech agency based in Dubai. These days, 40% of its business comes from the country, says co-founder David Balfour , who opened an office in Riyadh last month as a result.

“The conversation used to be, ‘We’re going to do this in Dubai.’ Now, it’s ‘We’re going to do this in Dubai—and in Saudi.’” Balfour said. “We’re seeing massive growth in that region.”

There have been speed bumps. As government spending reaches huge levels , Saudi Arabia experienced a rare economic contraction in 2023.

But the country’s efforts to expand its economic pursuits beyond oil have led to the creation of new brands, which are seeking the help of marketing agencies to get the word out.

Marketers in the region are seeking help to stay on-trend in areas such as generative artificial intelligence and social media, said Greg Paull , principal of R3, a consulting firm that helps match advertisers with agencies.

“U.A.E. has been a magnet for the region for 20 years as more investment has come in—but with the new leadership in Saudi since 2017 [when Mohammed bin Salman was named crown prince ], this market has gone through remarkable growth,” Paull said.

Saudi Arabia has faced criticism for its human-rights record under the crown prince, the day-to-day ruler of the kingdom, especially over the 2018 killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the more recent jailing of women’s rights activists.

Mohammed has outlasted the international isolation that followed Khashoggi’s killing, however, and continues to pursue an economic diversification plan dubbed Vision 2030. The country last year unveiled plans for a new international airline called Riyadh Air, is investing billions of dollars to build its tourism and videogame industries, and in March hosted a golf tournament in Jeddah under the auspices of LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed league that has both challenged the PGA Tour and struck a deal to unify with it.

Changing tides

Vision 2030 also calls women’s empowerment a top social priority and seeks to increase the country’s employment rate of women.

Nada Hakeem , CEO and co-founder of Saudi creative agency Wetheloft, said the perceptions of hardships for women in the marketing and advertising industry are outdated and inaccurate.

“As a Saudi woman who founded my company in 2012, I’ve always felt supported by the creative community and the industry as a whole,” Hakeem said. “While every society may have its challenges, I can confidently say that these challenges have not hindered our growth.”

A progression of new laws, policies and incentives are making the industry in Saudi Arabia more inclusive and supportive for women, she added.

In certain parts of the Middle East, “absolutely, it’s still challenging, but they are making the right strides, and they have the right quotas and ambitions in place,” said Rebecca Bezzina , CEO for the EMEA region at R/GA, an agency owned by Interpublic Group of Cos.

“They’ve got wealth, they’ve got world-class ambition, world-class budget. They’re not shy of doing things in the right way,” Bezzina added, speaking of the region overall. “But they still have a talent shortage, especially from a creative and design and product point of view. So often what we’ve found our success has been that they’ve come to us and said, ‘Oh, we want a world-class agency to help us launch this new venture or do this new brand.’”

R/GA said it sees 69% more requests for agency work from marketers in the region today than it did five years ago. It recently handled a brand redesign for Banque Saudi Fransi, which wanted to reaffirm its Saudi roots with a modern identity, and created Weyay, the brand for a new digital bank from the National Bank of Kuwait.

The agency hasn’t notably increased its regional workforce, but it has made changes to facilitate working across Europe and the Middle East.

Other Western players are making moves to capture a piece of the growth. Advertising giant WPP has long worked in Saudi Arabia through units such as Ogilvy and GroupM, but in 2021 established a joint venture with a local company to create ICG Saudi Arabia, a communications and media company based in Saudi Arabia. Ad holding company Stagwell opened new offices for its media agency Assembly in Riyadh in 2021 and in Cairo in 2022.

Regional hospitality

Some executives said certain facets of business dealings in the Middle East are different than in other parts of the world.

Bertrand Morin, a group account director for R/GA who is based in London and works often with Middle Eastern clients, said he spends much more time speaking about personal lives and families with those clients than those in the U.K. or U.S. He has been invited to Middle Eastern clients’ homes to join their families for dinner, something that has never happened with clients elsewhere.

But others say it can feel surprisingly familiar.

Balfour, the Lightblue co-founder, said he was struck by the number of ad-agency workers recently having dinner at the Riyadh location of steakhouse chain Beefbar, and the scene’s similarity to far-off locations.

“The staff are from everywhere in the world. The service and the food is unbelievable. There’s a DJ playing,” Balfour said. “Apart from not having alcohol, you could be anywhere in the world.”

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