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Asking For Help in A Job Search

If you don’t seem to be making progress in your job search, perhaps it’s due to a breakdown in communications. Here are some ideas on how best to ‘ask your way’ into a great new job.

Be specific.

If there is anything that drives me completely batty, it’s the generic request for assistance. As a job search consultant, I have many, many clients to “keep in mind” as I hear of opportunities. These are people I know, people I care about, and truly want to help. Nevertheless, no matter how I try, it is quite the trick to keep so many folks “in mind.”

Then there are the generic requests for help that I get from complete strangers who have found me on the Internet. They’ll often send an unsolicited resume with a polite little intro asking me to pass it along – if I know of anything. Well, I may have known of something, but the approach numbed my brain cells to the point where I can’t recall a thing.

Help others help you by naming some targeted job titles and a short list of companies that exemplify your dream job.

Rather than saying:
“I’m looking to relocate to Denver and would like to work in a senior manufacturing role. Please let me know if you hear of anything.”

Try something like this:
“As a Manufacturing Manager / Production Supervisor / Operations type, I want to talk with people at companies in the north Denver metro area. A few companies that interest me include Hach, Medtronic, and Frito-Lay. Who do you know – who might be willing to pass along my resume? All ideas appreciated! Let me know how I can return the favor!”

Other specific requests include asking others to review your resume or asking for a letter of recommendation. Do not, however, ask for information you can get on your own with a few seconds of Internet research. As my mom used to say when I’d ask her how to spell a particular word “Look it up.” People are more willing to help others who are clearly trying to help themselves.

Be passionate.

When requesting help, don’t be a downer. Don’t bellow about being laid off. Don’t moan about how long you’ve been looking for work. Don’t whine about your dwindling finances. Don’t look or sound desperate, or try to pressure or guilt trip people into helping you. Negative energy does not open doors. Instead, focus your energy forward, for you will eventually connect with a great job.

Get passionate about your next great gig. Share the excitement about the possibilities with others. Say things like “I am really looking forward to being part of a team again!” or “I am focusing my job search on the north end of town because there are some cool companies there and I think it’d be great if my next job had a quick commute.”

Be regular.

People are busy and can’t possibly keep you in mind for weeks on end after one brief email or phone call. Reach out regularly – every week or two – with an upbeat update on your search and a request for contacts into some different companies. Don’t worry about ‘pestering’ people. It’s unlikely that a call or email from you every week or two will push anyone over the edge. It’s more likely that without regular follow-up, they’ll forget all about you in spite of wanting to help.

Be appreciative.

Every second of time that someone is paying attention to you is a gift. If the information they offer you is not particularly helpful, say thank you anyway. Their time and attention has value. If you find yourself needing more than 30 minutes of someone’s assistance at one time, check in to be sure it’s okay with the person, and afterwards, the gracious thing to do is to offer to return the favor in some way, or perhaps take them to lunch as a gesture of appreciation. Even when they demur, they’ll feel appreciated.

When you’re talking with a career professional about your job search, don’t take advantage. Expecting more than a few minutes of “tips” or “advice” without signing on as a client and paying the standard rate is bad form. Just ask your attorney, CPA, or doctor how they feel about random requests for free advice. And know that when you’re asking the opinion of a professional who charges a specific hourly rate, an offer of a $10 lunch is not as gracious here, and is not appropriate compensation for an hour of their time.

Of course it’s hard to reach out and ask for help when you’re at a low point in life. I encourage you to use these guidelines and ask absolutely everyone in your world to support you. Most people really do want to be helpful. So help them help you by being specific, being positive and passionate, and being in touch regularly. Make it an uplifting experience for all concerned and you will be well on your way to a great new job.