If you're job searching, you've probably heard that one of the most effective things you can do is to use your network of connections to find job leads and make connections with hiring managers. But how do you actually reach out to your network, and what do you say? Here are five keys to doing it right.
1. Contact people individually, not en masse. It might be tempting to send out a mass email, letting everyone know all at once that you're looking. And realistically, if that's the only way you're going to get it done, then do that, because it's better than not contacting people at all. But it will be far more effective if you send individual emails to people instead of one group email - because people are generally much more inclined to help when they feel like you're reaching out to them directly.
After all, think about how you feel in similar shoes: If you get a mass email from a friend asking a group of people to, say, donate to a charity she's supporting, you may or may not spend much time thinking about her request. But if that friend instead reaches out to you personally, you will probably feel more responsible for really thinking over the request and maybe acting on it. When people see that they're one of many being asked, there's a diffusion of responsibility, a feeling that others will be taking care of this, so the urgency is lowered. So if you can, do individual emails - people will feel more invested.
2. Be clear about exactly what you're looking for. Too often, job seekers ask for job search assistance without being clear about what they're looking for. Don't leave anything open to interpretation - say that you're looking for work explicitly, and be clear about what types of roles you're interested in.
3. Ask directly for what kind of help you'd like. When you ask for assistance, don't say something vague like "let me know if you hear of anything" because many people never pay attention to job openings around them. Instead, be more specific; people are much more likely to help if you give them something concrete they can do. For instance, you might ask your neighbor if she can connect you with a hiring manager at her former company, or you might ask your old manager if she'd advise you on the companies you're considering. You can also ask people to think about whether they know anyone it would be helpful for you to talk with, and tell them that you'd be interested in connecting with people even if there's not a suitable opening right now.
4. Contact everyone in your network, even if you don't think they would know of any appropriate job openings. Too often, job seekers are hesitant to reach out to people in their network unless they're a hiring manager or connected to a particular company with openings. But it's worth reaching out to your full network, because you never know who might be able to tell you about an opening that you'd be perfect for. (And your chances of being considered for a job go up when you have someone connected to the job saying, "Hey, you should really consider Jane, because ___.")
5. Don't forget to include your résumé. Sometimes people think it is too forward or presumptuous to include their résumé right off the bat and that they should wait to be asked ... but in fact, attaching your résumé will save your contacts from having to write back and request it. Don't be shy about sending it the first time.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues.
She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.
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