I’m not sure if we’ll ever figure out exactly why asking for help during a job search makes most people feel so, well, helpless. It’s a straightforward thing, right? If I had to guess, I’d say it has to do with wanting to prove you can do it on your own. But that’s ridiculous.
There are people who there who can help you—and better yet, want to help you.
That’s why today, I’m talking about a few reasons why it’s perfectly OK to ask for a little assistance when you need it. Seriously, take my permission to reach out to your network and to strangers.
1. You Don’t Know Everyone on the Face of the Planet
I don’t doubt that some of you are social butterflies who can hold your own in a crowded room full of people. However, even if you are, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone on the face of this Earth who knows everyone.
And when you want to meet someone, what do most people tell you to do? Well, if you’re anything like Forbes’ Molly Ford Beck, you make it a point to network with strangers to someone, even when it’s uncomfortable. She can trace her success back to a time when she reached out to a stranger (after eavesdropping on her during dinner) who ended up becoming her mentor.
This takes a little slice of humble pie, but the truth is that you don’t know everyone, and most of the people you come across understand. That brings me to my next point.
2. You’re (Probably) Not Bothering People as Much as You Think You Are
OK, you might annoy someone if you send an email that says, “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but you know someone at a company I want to work for, so please email me back as quickly as you possibly can." However, if you put a little thought into who you ask for help, and how you approach those people, the odds are that you won’t bother them. Seriously.
Personally, I’ve been asked to review resumes and cover letters, make introductions, and just provide general career advice by people I barely knew. And you know what? Most times, I didn’t mind at all. And I bet that unless you just happen to know a lot of really mean people, the majority of even your indirect contacts won’t mind either.
But, if you’re feeling a little unsure, start with this template for reaching out to anyone, even strangers.
3. You’re Not Obligated to Reciprocate Right Away (or at All)
For most people I know, the toughest part of asking for help is wanting to return the favor ASAP. I guess by reciprocating quickly, it shortens the period during which you are the lowly charity case (or something like that). In any case, the truth is that only the most selfish people in the workforce want something in return immediately for a little bit of advice, or a resume review, or whatever it is that you’re asking for.
In most cases, if you put some thought into the types of people you reach out to, the ones who do lend a helping hand will find a lot of satisfaction in simply being a good citizen. Just recently, I wrote a long-ish email to a friend of a friend who’s starting her career, and if the only thing I receive in return is the thank you note I got, that would be perfectly fine.
Honestly, rather than worry about paying it back, focus instead on paying it forward. When you’re in the place to help someone, do it.
Asking for help is tough, and since you’re probably really awesome, it’s probably not going to come naturally. However, nobody knows everything or everyone, and only the meanest people you meet will actively try to make you feel small for asking for a little boost during a tough period. While you might not love the idea of admitting you could use assistance, you’ll ultimately make your job search a whole lot easier if you swallow your pride, figure out who can help you, and go out and ask for whatever you need.