Help People Help You Find a Job

Dear, Anita,

I know networking is supposed to be important in finding a job. But I have not had any luck with it. People say they’ll keep their eyes open for me, but I never hear back from anyone. What am I doing wrong?

Helping_Hand_28212038_SmallDear, Unfavorable,

It’s often said that it’s not what you know, but who you know. Obviously, you need to know something to land that skilled job! However, statistics seem to indicate that 70%-80% of jobs are found through networking.  But these things can take time.

Develop relationships.
Just because you met someone at a chamber mixer last week doesn’t mean they’re going to vouch for you with their best friend who happens to be the HR director at a company you’d like to work for. Think of networking Chess_People_14866386_Smallas an old-fashioned Victorian introduction. While in olden times young men and women were not at liberty to speak to one another until properly introduced, you’ll fare better with a potential employer if a known third party gives you an introduction. If you’re feeling a little rusty at introduction etiquette at meet and greets, let Etiquette International help you out. (I’m sure Emily Post would abhor “poking” on Facebook.) Follow up with people with whom you’ve made a connection, whether you chatted about a mutual love of hiking or debated the merits of Siri vs. Cortana. You may not become BFFs, but who knows? Once you become better acquainted, you may even ask this person to be your mentor. .

Mine your Facebook and LinkedIn contacts for “virtual” introductions. See my post Lessons on LinkedIn for more details on how to maximize your online connections.

Define your target.
Businessman kneeling down looking up, portrait
Avoid telling people you meet that you are looking for “anything” in your job search. It may seem counter-intuitive, but casting your net that wide won’t make for a successful fishing expedition. Focus on your specific areas of interest, so that key words will trigger your networkee’s memory of you when they hear of a job opening in your field. You may even wish to develop a target list of a dozen companies that you would like to work for as examples.

Be specific.
Even if you don’t have a honed-in target list, you still want be explicit (not in the rated R kind of way, but in an unambiguous manner) when you ask for a helping hand. Ask, “Who do you know who… ” …may have an opening in their accounting department …has a need for marketing assistance …is expanding their sales force, etc.

When asking past and current colleagues and clients for permission to be listed as a reference for you, go one step further and request a recommendation or endorsement on LinkedIn. See tips in my post Atta Girl for facilitating a LinkedIn recommendation.

Return favors.
Don’t be a taker only; give back. It may not be like for like (after all, they may not be in the job market looking for a foot in the door). But be sure to reciprocate somehow – and send a thank you note at the very least. And while paying it forward always brings good karma, do your best to somehow repay that significant favor from a pivotal person.

Readers: How can you ask those in your network for specific help in your job search?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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