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How to REALLY Help a Job Seeker

February 23rd, 2011

One question I hated while in a job search was:

How’s your job search going?

The answer I said was “it’s going okay,” but what I thought was “it sucks more than you could imagine!”

When I speak I share a brilliant response to the question, but in this post I want to share an idea I had for people who ASK the question.  Feel free to forward this on to… well, the entire world, because EVERYONE should think about this.

Perhaps this normal question is the best way to start out the conversation, and 99% of job seekers respond as I have below, but then see how the conversation changes after their lame response (yes, they know it is lame, but there is a reason they respond that way).

Job Seeker Friend: How’s your job search going?

Job Seeker: Fine.

Job Seeker Friend: <awkward pause>

Job Seeker: <awkward pause>

Job Seeker Friend: What companies are you trying to get into?

Job Seeker: Oh, um, I’ve been applying at Company A, Company B and Company C.  There are others, but those are the three I’m most interested in.

Job Seeker Friend: I might know someone at one of those companies… let me see if I can find their information for you.

Job Seeker: That would be great – can you send an email introducing us to one another?  I find an introduction is much better than me calling out of the blue.

Job Seeker Friend: That’s a great idea, I’ll do it as soon as I find their information.

Job Seeker: Thank you!

Job Seeker Friend: What titles are you interviewing for?

Job Seeker: I’m looking for a role as a ____ or an _____.

Job Seeker Friend: You know, I think I know someone who has been a ___ for a while.  I can introduce you to her, also.

Job Seeker: I really appreciate the leads!  I will be sure to follow up with them, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Job Seeker Friend: Great.  You’ll see a few emails soon.

Job Seeker: Thank you!

See how this works?  There are a few things going on here.  Here’s the dialog again, with my comments in black:

Job Seeker Friend: How’s your job search going?

Job Seeker: Fine. We all hate this question… but if you end here you miss an opportunity!

Job Seeker Friend: <awkward pause> this is where it usually ends, right?

Job Seeker: <awkward pause>

Job Seeker Friend: What companies are you trying to get into? This question is GOLD.  Coach your friends to ask you this question.

Job Seeker: Oh, um, I’ve been applying at Company A, Company B and Company C.  There are others, but those are the three I’m most interested in. You should be able to list three target companies at all times.  You can change them as often as you wish, but you need to be able to rattle them off.

Job Seeker Friend: I might know someone at one of those companies… let me see if I can find their information for you.

Job Seeker: That would be great – can you send an email introducing us to one another?  I find an introduction is much better than me calling out of the blue. This is SO true… an email intro is worth 100 times what you get from an email address or phone number.

Job Seeker Friend: That’s a great idea, I’ll do it as soon as I find their information.

Job Seeker: Thank you!

Job Seeker Friend: What titles are you interviewing for? Another golden question!

Job Seeker: I’m looking for a role as a ____ or an _____.

Job Seeker Friend: You know, I think I know someone who has been a ___ for a while.  I can introduce you to her, also.

Job Seeker: I really appreciate the leads!  I will be sure to follow up with them, and I’ll let you know how it goes. This is so critical.  If you give an intro, let the person know that you actually acted on it – they are more likely to do more introductions later.

Job Seeker Friend: Great.  You’ll see a few emails soon.

Job Seeker: Thank you!

It is our job, as job seekers, to help people who want to help us. If someone asks “how’s your job search going,” don’t blow it. Instead, help them understand how they can help you – give them a little work to do. They’ll appreciate it!

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city, state or zip jobs by job search

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4 Responses to “How to REALLY Help a Job Seeker”

  1. Ed Han says:

    Jason, I once wrote a similar blog entry myself. When speaking with a job seeker, *always* ask about their top 3 target employers!

  2. Don Goodman says:

    Great post.. leading them down the networking path.

    Now tell them to learn how to use LinkedIn and they will be on the right track.

  3. Don Goodman says:

    Great post. Lead them down the networking path.

    Now tell them to go learn how to use LinkedIn for their job search and you will have given them new tools and energy.

  4. This turns out to also be useful (as Jason no doubt slyly planned) as a way to teach job seekers *how* to ask for help. As of Monday, I am once again looking for work: I was laid off, along with two other people, by the consulting firm I have been working for during the last two and a half years. I now have to turn to my network for help once more, and I’m trying to be careful to ask for what they can reasonably provide, not put them on the spot for what they may not be willing or able to do. So far the response has been good — fingers crossed.

    Fortunately, I have been doing many of the key things Jason keeps emphasizing here: have multiple sources of income, keep up-to-date with your network, keep engaged with your community, keep your resume a living document. It’s a really hard time to look for a job, but at least I feel I have done my homework!

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