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Please, Please, Please Help Me!

December 28th, 2011

Have you ever got a request to help someone? I get, and see, these types of requests regularly.  Here’s one I saw on a LinkedIn Group 7 days ago:

Recently downsized, I am experienced in many areas any leads would be appreciated.

This was the ENTIRE message… there was nothing before that and nothing after that. So…

What do you think… can you help this person?

Are you ready and willing to share some leads?

Many of you are open to it, some of you are anxious to help, but first, let me help the person asking this question.

The problem with the question is that no one knows what kinds of leads this person would be most interested in.

Do you want to sell insurance?  There are plenty of people on Monster that would love to have you start selling insurance.

On the Group where he asked the question, there were two responses that looked like MLM.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but are you interested in a business ownership, commission and sales role?  (based on the person’s LinkedIn Profile, I’d guess he is not too interested in that)

Would you like to work in construction, or at Taco Bell?  Want to work as a security guard at night?

There’s nothing wrong with any of these, but the question does not help me understand what this person is looking for.

Let me use imagination and re-write what this message could have been.  I’m going to use MYSELF (from six years ago) in the example below… Pass this post along to anyone who has asked you for help… many, many people need to have more clarity in their message.

I was recently downsized from my company where I was the general manager. We provided custom software and networking services for companies in a few different industries.

(these two lines gives you an idea of what I used to do, what my skills and experience have been, and perhaps what my passion has been)

I have a lot of experience with various things including leadership and strategy (which is what I did as a general manager), customer acquisition and account management, and software design and development.

(This line helps the reader/listener understand even more what my specialties are… it is definitely a missing link in the original message)

I would appreciate any leads in the Salt Lake City area.

(that is where I was living when I got laid off, and where I have a house payment, etc.  NOTE: after a few months of no success, I opened up my search to anywhere in the U.S.  It’s important to let us know if you are open to moving… or if you want to stay in one area!).

I am especially interested in a company that is growing fast and needs strategy and leadership as they grow.  I’d love to work at a company that provides software services for other companies. .. I would be open to a large company that has an established IT shop.

(This last line needs work, but the idea is to give me an idea of what kinds of companies I want an introduction to.)

For example, I’d like to work at Zions bank in their IT department, or for ______ company, or for ______ company.  I’m open to other similar opportunities, also.

(Now, close it with a question / aka, call to action:)

Do you know anyone I should talk to?  They can be at those companies, similar companies, or just in the IT field.  If you know someone you can introduce me to, will you send me an email so we can start the introduction?  My email is _______.

Contrast the message above to this message (in bold).  Very different…. when you ask for help, if you aren’t specific, you risk no one being able to help you.  Imagine going to an architect and saying “please design a house for me.  I don’t have any specifications… just a house.” They’ll need more to go on, right?

Your friends and family need more to go on, also.

11 Comments »

11 responses to “Please, Please, Please Help Me!”

  1. Rita Carey says:

    Jason, the contrast between the two requests is a perfect example of how people must help people to help them. Examples like this contrast in requests are extremely helpful when people are in transition. The emotions related to job loss often leave otherwise competent people unable to articulate what they do and for whom they do it. Conversations, though longer than the one cited here, are often just as non-specific leaving people who want to help unable to do so. I would like to use this in my webinar presentations with acknowledgement of its source. Would that be alright with you?

  2. Darlene says:

    Well, I was all ready to be snarky in noting that if this is the way the person communicated at work, that may have contributed to being laid off. But Ms. Carey compassionately points out competent people do desperate things when they are desperate. And the double “pleases” come off as DESPERATE. The short answer is yes, I would help this person by asking a boatload of questions and showing them how to ask from a position of strength. A successful job search is all about presenting what you have to offer and building relationships — not throwing something at the wall and seeing what sticks.

  3. Darlene says:

    Ooops, correction — Triple “pleases” indicating an even higher level of desperation.

  4. Jason Alba says:

    @Rita – excellent comment, thank you Rita. Interesting that you brought up emotions… yesterday my wife said “I read that post about the depressed guy. I think it is my most favorite post you have written.” (no kidding… not word for word, but she said that. I’ve arrived!!)

    I didn’t know she was talking about this post… but she, and you (Rita) have read into that one-liner and seen his emotions and perhaps desperation.

    Isn’t it interesting what our words really communicate?

    @Darlene – LOL… I like snarky :p It’s interesting that you, and I, and Rita, and people close to the job search experience, will drill down and ask more questions…. but many people just kind of nod their heads, say something kind, and move on… because, even though they want to help, they don’t know how to help.

    Job seekers need to get a lot better at “asking” for help (without necessarily ASKING for help).

  5. Jason Alba says:

    @Rita and all – you can use my stuff anytime, just cite it as from Jason Alba at JibberJobber.com (and if you can, add “which is a job search organizer that replaces the job search spreadsheet” or something like that :)).

  6. Rita Carey says:

    Thank you, Jason. It’s always a pleasure to cite your work and credit you!

  7. Brad Merrill says:

    I know how this person feels. Happened just this morning. Although I knew it would happen at some time as I was hired as a “seasonal” employee, but the timing caught me off guard a little bit. It was in a customer service role at a Medicare exchange. (basically a insurance agency specializing in Medicare supplements) I was there about 3.5 months, however most of my experience is in accounting and tax (mostly sales/use tax)

    A similar role would be considered, but would not be my first choice. An accounting or tax role would. Obviously a “permanent, benefited position would be ideal, I would consider temporary/seasonal roles.

    I haven’t formulated a list of target companies – yet. I would primarily be looking at something along the Wasatch Front (Salt Lake, Utah or Davis county, although others might be considered.)

  8. Jason Alba says:

    Brad, thanks for weighing in on this. I too know how this person feels, and I know how the communication happens. It’s my goal not to make him/her feel bad for not doing it “right,” but to share with my readers that they can do it better, or that they should prepare for the time when they need to ask/outreach.

    The point you bring up is that of “and I’m willing to do something else while I wait for the ideal role to open up,” also an important message to send…

    :)

  9. Brad Merrill says:

    Jason- I think many of us do know how it feels. Mine is just very fresh. (<2 hours)

    The timing of this post was great. Now, I don't think I would have gone to the extreme that the guy in your OP put out a posting in terms of no information, the fact I read this then posted I tried to do it the right way.

  10. Roxan Park says:

    Jason,
    Thank you so much for this very relevant post! In the Job Club that I facilitate we teach a step method to making requests that are SPECFIC and will be more likely to gain desired results.

    We teach that people do indeed want to help and that it is up to the job seeker to communicate effectively.

    For face to face or phone conversations here is our process:
    1. Connect – build rapport “How have you been, family, etc.)
    2. Why you are looking for work (laid off, etc.)
    3. What is special about the person you are having the conversation with? (“You know my work”; “You have a lot of contacts”; “You are an expert in our field”.)
    4. What are your skills and what kind of industry, employer, etc. are you looking to find.
    5. What is your request (leads, introduction, letter or recommendation, pass your resume, etc?)
    6. Make sure you are relationship building (giving, as well as taking)

    This strategy is based on the behavioral approach to Job Clubs, the work of Dr. Nathan Azrin whose work is recommended by Richard Bolles.

  11. Roxan Park says:

    Your comment about your friends and family need more to go on couldn’t be more true.