Job Search and Networking Introductions

January 28th, 2009

Two years ago (!!) I wrote about giving and receiving virtual introductions, and the problems I was experiencing with both.  Check out Introductions gone bad… and Solution to Introductions gone bad… ?

Today I want to talk about something related, and again, an issue I see ALL THE TIME.  That is, how do you introduce yourself and ask for help.  I recently saw an email to an elist I’m on that was something like this (slightly edited, just taking a few words out):

Would you help me out joining my linkedin network?  My current job ends a week from today.    Can you recommend a reputable [city, state] Employment Agency, Virtual Co., etc?

That was it.  How many requests do you get like this?  Expect the number to go up this year, as more people who have been heads-down employees start to navigate the job search.  Here was my response:

I know this is HIGHLY unsolicited advice, but I see this type of request coming through on this list and others, so let me suggest something to you (or whoever wants to listen) – if this offends you, sorry, but hopefully it helps as you network during your job search.

You are asking if we know any agencies in [city].  You can simply go to google or the yellow pages for that.  I can list a few agencies, but they are virtually useless, especially when everyone and their dog is going to them right now for help.

Might I suggest you pose your question a little differently?  I have no idea WHO you are and WHAT you do.  Not to mention we don’t have a relationship, but beside that, I really need to know more about you before I refer you to a nameless agency, OR worse, to a network contact of mine.

I’m okay trusting members of this group, even with 9k+ members, and kind of doing an intro based on that even though we don’t have a relationship, but you have to give me something to go on.  What about:

“My name is _______ and I’ve been on this list for x months/years.  I have appreciated _____________.

My current job ends a week from today.  I have known about this for the last month and have been getting my job search in order, and network as much as I can.  I know that there are places I haven’t thought of, and am wondering if any of you have any recommendations for helpful recruiters, employment agencies, or people I should talk to?

I am in [city] and specialize in the _________ field.  In my last job I (tell a story here that helps me wrap my brain around your value add).

I am looking for a role as a (job title).  Ideally I would like to work for a company like (target company A, target company B, target company C).

Does anyone know of any network contacts I should talk to?  Even if they aren’t in [city], I’d love to talk with someone at one of my target companies, their competitors, or someone in my industry.

I appreciate any help – you can contact me off-list for my resume or any other information.

And if any of you are looking for a new job in [city], please let me know and I’ll share some networking ideas with you.”

Thoughts?

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11 Responses to “Job Search and Networking Introductions”

  1. Sari Neudorf says:

    love the simplicity of this. Thanks, Sari

  2. Great response Jason! As a recruiter and active networker (and someone who works in a firm that also employs a f/t Career Coach), I have always received emails/phone calls like this, but the volume has increase 10x in the last 6 months or so. I truly want to help as many people as I can, but it does frustrate me that many of the (also frustrated) job seekers seem to want someone to do the work for them. Your “silver bullet” post recently was spot on, and this one too.

    I’ve been asked three times in the last couple of weeks by someone calling or emailling me (whom I have never met and was not referred to me by someone I know) if I would introduce them to “some of my contacts” (while also giving me no context of their experience, what they are looking for, etc.). When I answer that it would be helpful for them to clearly articulate WHO they are, WHAT they are looking for (specifically) and WHY they’d be a great fit for that in a few sentences, they resist, because they want to be “open” because it’s tough out there. I’ll also suggest that they get out and network to begin to hone their “elevator speech” and find what works, as well as to make contacts and build relationships that can help them along the way. Their next question – “Can you send me a list of where I should network”. (FAIL)

    Hey I get it that networking and job search is hard, and as I said I try very hard to be helpful. (I was a job seeker myself 3 years ago who engaged a Coach to help me navigate the fray.) But people have to do their own work. One of the best ways to separate yourself from the “competition” these days is to have a clear and confident vision about who you are, what you’re looking for and why you’d be great at that (and be able to articulate it). Also, those who seek to help others will stand out and I promise will reap the benefits of Career Karma. Those who fall victim to waiting for others to find them a job, a recruiter, a networking event, etc. will unfortunately be left behind.

    I hope the person took your advice to heart, because it could save them months of heartache.

  3. [...] Alba writes about Job Search and Networking Introductions and I couldn’t agree with him [...]

  4. Bonnie Kurka says:

    Excellent advice, Jason. One major component when people are networking is “giving back” or asking what they can do for other people. This is missing in most conversations. The job seeker is hungry and wants to suck up all of the information and contacts that he can and forgets that offering help is not only polite but an integral part of the process. Thanks for bringing this to light.

  5. Dan Erwin says:

    Yeahhhh. Reciprocity is key. Another issue that will escalate these questions is to explain “why” you’re contacting that person. And give a genuine rationale.

    I’m asking for help from you because. . . (you’ve been recommended as highly knowledgeable or respected for. . . . blah, blah, blah.) It says that you’ve really done your homework, that you’re aware of the person’s expertise, knowledge or network. You’re not just sending out requests to everyone on your list. And you know this person has a lot to offer. That should surface a number of obvious psychological benefits.

    It’s an especially useful strategy in asking for feedback or input of any sort.

  6. This is a great idea for active seekers! It’s funny how important the 15 second pitch really is when you are contacting someone you don’t know yet. Rapport building skills are essential. There ARE jobs out there and companies ARE hiring. Those of us that can master what it truly means to “network into your next position” will win out in both the short term and long term.

    I like to think of a job search as really a way to enhance and grow our skills – you really need to be that much better than the other job seekers after the same opening.

    Oh, and even us out of work recruiters make the same mistakes while looking for the next role. You’d think we would have learned since we are in the recruiting role – but alas not always.

    Great advice Jason, keep it coming! You are always very solution oriented and your readers listen and appreciate. Someone sent me a note recently that you are the guy that always makes lemonade out of the lemons :-)

    ~ Heather

  7. Thank you so much Jason! I see hundreds of emails from people looking for a quick fix to their lack of a developed network. Emotions must get the best of these folks. They are unclear in what they are asking for and in many cases wouldn’t even be able to fill in the blanks in your wonderful template.

    Having a plan and strategy is so important to successful networking. This starts with an idea of the job market (companies who might need your abilities and what they call what you do). It makes it easier for people to know how to help!

    Keep up the great work

  8. I think the amount of people using all the Web 2.0 websites for job hunting is going to rise dramatically this year.

  9. Benton Crane says:

    Your unsolicited advice was excellent. How was it received?

  10. Rick Saia says:

    Desperate times call for desperate measures. But in the case of being without a job, you need to realize the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do for you. Many who are job hunting fail to realize that, and they should be prepared to give more than they receive. For instance, for every job lead you receive:

    * Offer a combination of three job leads and network referrals;
    * Make calls to hiring manager you know on behalf of someone else who’s seeking a job; or
    * Offer advice to two job seekers on how to approach particular companies that have job openings.

    These are just three ideas. I’m sure there are more. Are there other ideas here on “giving more than receiving”?

  11. [...] well. Here are THREE of my favorite posts where I talk about how to introduce someone, or yourself: Job Search and Networking Introductions (January 28, 2009) – how to introduce yourself and ask for help. Introductions gone bad… [...]

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