The Art of Asking For Help During the Job Hunt
January 25, 2013 Leave a comment
Guest blog by Erica Moss
Everyone’s been there: Either you’re new to the job market completely because you were just handed your diploma, you find yourself unexpectedly on the hunt because of a layoff, or maybe you’re just feeling stuck in your current gig and you’re ready for a change of pace.
We all know there are right and wrong ways to approach this process, and I would argue the stakes are a bit higher when you’re in the communications/social/public relations fields because people expect you to be on-point when it comes to written and verbal communication.
Unfortunately, it seems as though some people still haven’t gotten the memo about the importance of being professional, whether you’re asking your college buddy for an introduction to a contact or sending your resume over to an old professor to review. How you present yourself in these seemingly casual encounters can positively — or negatively — influence the level of help you receive from that individual, and ultimately, your ability to land your dream job.
Here are a few easy-to-fix mistakes I’ve seen recently:
Lack of Attention to Detail
We talk about this ad nauseum, don’t we? Even though it seems like common sense, it’s not always common practice, and all too often I see job-seekers who, perhaps are in too much of a hurry, and don’t step back for a second to double-check their work.
For example, if one of your friends agrees to let you name-drop them in an email to a job lead, it’s important to properly identify said friend and their job title in your email. If you don’t know your friend’s official title, bop on over to LinkedIn and verify exactly how they describe themselves. Don’t, and you risk confusing the person you’re contacting and annoying your friend. When you’re on the job hunt, you need all of the allies and advantages you can get.
Being Too Casual
Brevity is an important skill to perfect in our modern world, where sound bites and 140 character snippets rule the world. Abbreviations are the norm. And that’s okay, for the most part. But when it comes to positioning yourself in the best possible light, it’s important to separate a casual conversation you’re having with your BFFL on Twitter and a serious ask from a friend or colleague when you’re on the job hunt.
For example, I don’t know about you, but if someone is asking for assistance in a professional capacity, and I see “U R” instead of “you are,” I immediately make assumptions about that person’s education level, and frankly, their judgement level as well. A message you send to me, truly, should look no different style-wise than one you would send to your potential employer. It’s important for me to take you seriously, so that you instill in me the confidence to put in a good word for you. I also deduct points for missing words and excessive punctuation. (Read: !!!!!!!)
Being Too Demanding with Requests/Follow-Ups
The art of the follow-up is an entirely separate blog post in and of itself. When done correctly, it can ensure the people you’re trying to reach actually hear your message and improve the chances that your ask will be fulfilled. There’s a fine line, however, between following up and straight-up bullying your contact, souring them and their willingness to help you on your path to a job.
For example, if I agree to shoot your resume around to a few contacts I have in the industry, it’s probably best to wait about two weeks before following up with me to see if anyone was interested. Because let’s face it, email has become a chore for a lot of people, so I, too, have to wait for my contacts to actually open and evaluate your resume — it also requires them to email me back a response before I have any type of update for you, the job-seeker. If you send me your resume on a Monday and ask for updates on Wednesday, I might get a little frustrated.
So Give It To Me Straight
The people you’ve connected with both personally and professionally will be an invaluable asset in your job hunt. These days, it’s all about who you know and who the people you know know (Still with me?). With that in mind, it’s imperative that, when you tap into these networks in order to leverage their connections and land your dream job, you remain mindful of the fact that these people are putting their reputation and credibility on the line for you.
When you email, message or tweet them, craft your requests or questions in a way that is confident, professional and to-the-point. Be mindful of details and follow-up in a reasonable amount of time, and you’ll be well on your way to securing the job you’ve always wanted.
Erica Moss is the community manager for Georgetown University’s online masters in nursing education and family nurse practitioner programs. She enjoys blogging, TV, pop culture and tweeting @ericajmoss.