Get Your Network to Work for You
Landing a job takes a lot of work. So if you’re thinking that you can simply sit at home and submit an online application these days, you are probably getting frustrated with the amount of time it’s taking you to start your next adventure. And if the hundreds of job seekers I speak with every month are any indicator, the phrase, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” is the mantra these days.
I’ve heard recruiters say that around 75% of the people they hire come from a recommendation – either an employee referral, a previous coworker, or someone within the company’s network. As a reluctant networker myself, those kinds of numbers are a bit hard to swallow.
But you already have a network. It’s time to get them working for you.
It’s scary to reach out to people and ask for help. It can also be another ego blow or sense of “failure” when you need help finding a new job. More than everything else, it can be isolating and lonely during the hunt.
Here’s the good news: your network wants to help you! I promise – they really do. The problem is that you’ve been asking them for help, in the wrong way.
Typical network ask/email request:
I just wanted to let you know that I am no longer with ABC Company and am looking for a new job. It’s a very exciting time for me and I’d love any help that you can provide. Please keep an eye out for any position that you think may be a good fit for me.
Thanks for the help!
Let’s break this email request down:
- Problem 1 : It’s a mass email. I mean really, how many of those do you open and respond to? It’s human nature to want to be personally addressed and acknowledged.
- Solution 1 : I know it can be a pain in the butt and it will definitely take more time, but send an email directly to the key influencers within your network. Make each one personal – add a little note about something you’ve talked about before or an inside joke. By personalizing the email, it makes it more of a conversation, than an awkward ask on both sides.
- Problem 2: You’re not really telling the reader anything except some fluff. Yes, my non-woo-woo ways may be adding some flavor here, but while this email is concise, it’s not really telling the reader anything. The sentence about it being an exciting time comes across as a bit fake – and perhaps a little sad. Losing a job or needing to find a new one isn’t “exciting” for most people (even if it is for you, consider your audience).
- Solution 2: Tell the reader more about what’s going on. No, that doesn’t mean going through your story about why you were fired/laid off/quit, but more about timing, and goals, and what you see as being next for you.
- Problem 3: You haven’t asked them to do anything. This is the biggest problem of all – you forgot to ask them to take action. The general assumption is that the “keep an eye out” sentence is enough, but it’s not. It’s still very ambiguous to the reader as to how they can help you; what they can do to connect you; and so on.
- Solution 3: You have to make a direct and specific ask. Yes, comfort zone is being stretched here people! But I promise, this works. When someone asks you to do something specific, you know exactly how you can help and what your marching orders are. It’s the same when asking your network for assistance. Be direct, be specific, and make it easy for them to take action.
- Problem 4: There’s no way for them to pass information about you along to others. No resume was included, your strengths were discussed, you didn’t have an easy-to-access email/phone number present in the message.
- Solution 4: Make it almost brainless for people to connect you. Attach a pdf version of your resume, add your contact information in the email message, format the email as though they could simply hit forward to send along to a contact.
BETTER EMAIL REQUEST:
It’s been awhile since we’ve connected – we have a lot to catch up on! I wanted to reach out to let you know that I am currently back on the job market seeking a director-level position in Social Media Marketing.
After five years at ABC Company, I am confident that my skills and experience will be an asset to small-to-mid-size companies, like the one you’re at. I didn’t see any current openings at your company that meet my background, but I would love your assistance in helping me connect with the VP in the group so I can set-up an informational interview. Are you able to pass my resume along and make the introduction? If they’d rather reach out directly, please feel free to send along my contact info – email: sally @ email.com or 555-867-5309.
I really appreciate any guidance or assistance you are able to provide – please let me know when you’re free for coffee to catch up (on me, of course!).
In this example, it’s clear what John is being asked to do, he knows exactly what success looks like, he feels appreciated and acknowledged, and he can then make the decision to connect you or not to the VP, or even think of other people or positions that may come across his desk, specifically within what you are looking for.
Do you have a friend (or colleague) that’s struggling with leveraging their network?