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Help Me Help You

You are less alone in your job search than you might think. Your network of friends, former coworkers, and mentors are waiting to be tapped as a resource. People enjoy helping others; I know I do. While getting your personal network on board with your job search is important, knowing how to ask for help is just as important as asking. After receiving quite a few emails lately—both good and bad—from jobseekers, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts about what makes for an effective pitch to your network.

1. Do let a wide network of friends and supporters know that you are looking for a job.
I receive job postings all day long from a variety of sources but unless I know someone is looking for the type of job that comes across my radar, I hit the delete button. I also don’t like to clog inboxes with emails but if someone asks to be sent job listings, I gladly forward them along. Your contacts can’t help you unless you let them know you need help.

2. Don’t attach your resume in your first email. There’s nothing I dislike more than when an acquaintance attaches his/her resume and asks me to forward it to my contacts. I can’t do your job search for you. What you can do is say in the initial email that you’d be happy to send your resume if it would be helpful.

3. Do be as specific as possible. Many people send around job search emails but forget to provide enough information about what they are looking for. If you are not clear yourself, then perhaps it’s time to work with a personal coach or do some journaling and career assessment tests. The clearer you can be about what you are looking for, the faster the leads will come through your network.

4. Do provide your network with a list of 5–10 companies that would be your dream location to work. Paint a picture for your network of where you envision yourself. A recent contact sent around an email saying she was interested in positions in “the arts.” This could mean any number of things. What does this mean to her? I asked her to send me a list of five dream companies and she replied with museums and historical sites. Now I had a much better picture of what she had in mind. I also learned that she was looking to stay in the Washington D.C. area, information that was not supplied in her original email.

5. Do let your network know the department, division, and job title you envision yourself with.
Similar to letting your contacts know where you see yourself working, let them know in what role(s). For example, a large institution like NYU or any other major university has a communications staff, finance, fundraising, teaching roles, positions that involve more writing than others, working with students or not. What types of skills and experience do you have and what areas do you see yourself in? Also, are you looking only for full-time or are you open to part-time and freelance? Let your network know as best you can.

6. Don’t write an email that is long-winded. I recently received a job search email that was two long paragraphs of text. I wished this person had made it easy on me with some bulleted points. Keep your email short and formatted for easy reading. It should be straightforward and simple but with substance. Ask yourself if someone could get the gist of what you are asking for quickly. This is what you are going for.

7. Do ask about informational interviews. While your network may not have job leads for you, chances are some have contacts in your desired field. Informational interviews provide you with face time with someone working where you might like to be. They can be step one in creating the ideal job for you rather than waiting for it to come along.

8. Don’t forget to say thank you and report on any successes. I give out leads all the time but only a fraction of people follow up to let me know of any successes. Those who do make my day, and are certain to receive my help in the future. Let people know where their leads took you. You can never say thank you enough.