I’d be lying to myself (and everyone I know) if I didn’t acknowledge how much help I’ve gotten from my connections. Whether it meant reviewing my resume or introducing me to a hiring manager, I can’t imagine what my career would look like if I hadn’t had that kind of support.
And I’m willing to bet that even if your network hasn’t handed you every single position you’ve held, you’d be kidding yourself if you said nobody had helped you along the way. But as generous and empathetic as a lot of people can be about the job search, there are plenty of things you can do to make their lives a lot harder than they need to be.
And if you keep those things up, eventually those connections will turn into enemies. And by enemies, I mean people who never respond to your emails. Or they do, several days later with a “Sorry, this got lost in my inbox.”
To avoid that from happening to you, avoid doing any of the following:
1. Not Listening to the Advice You’re Getting
Imagine that you’ve identified a job you’re interested in, and that you happen to know someone whose friend works at the company. Amazing, right? But then, let’s say that after you send your friend’s contact a copy of your resume, he or she replies by asking you to fix a few typos. Embarrassing, but totally fixable. The easiest way to keep your friend’s connection in your network at this point is to take that person’s advice seriously and make the necessary fixes—along with doing some additional homework to make sure you’re putting yourself in the best position possible.
But in too many cases, people just gloss over the tips and make the same mistake again. Recently, out of the goodness of my heart, I spent a few weeks helping someone with her resume—making sure to point out tiny typos that’ll put her in the dreaded “no” pile. After that, I offered to connect her to a hiring manager for an open position I knew about. My reward was a typo on her application. And while it didn’t affect me personally, it was still frustrating to see after I’d spent my free time explaining why this wasn’t OK. (Also, it didn’t make me look great in front of my own network.)
If you’re hearing the same feedback again and again, the odds are that the person on the other end’s getting increasingly frustrated—and increasingly less likely to help you ever again.
2. Monopolizing the Person’s Time
Sure, it’s easy to see your problems as the biggest problems ever when you’re looking for a job. And when you get an introduction to someone who might help you find your next gig, it’s easy to look at that person and say, hey, this is a great opportunity to vent. Also, a great time to bring up every issue I’ve encountered so far and ask for feedback.
As patient as I can be about a lot of things, I usually have plenty to do at work—and don’t have time to listen to complaints or answer an endless stream of questions. Not only that, it feels a bit one-sided after a while. Sure, you might be the one who’s struggling in your search, but the person on the other end isn’t there to be your sounding board.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: When I figure out that someone is going to email me constantly about his job search, I’ll ask that person if he wants to hop on the phone to chat. Of course, I try to find times that are convenient for both of us, but there’s one main reason why I do this—it gives me control over how long the conversation will last. And from what I’ve heard, this is a common strategy. If someone you’ve been emailing requests something along these lines, you should probably rethink how often you’re asking this person for help.
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3. Asking for a Silver Bullet
There are way too many times when it’s clear to me that the person reaching out just wants the silver bullet answer to improve his or her chances of landing the job. And that can be very frustrating. Not only do I rarely possess that silver bullet, but odds are I don’t know you that well and am unwilling to put myself out on a limb to help you bypass all the typical stages.
No matter who you’re speaking with—a CEO at your dream company or an industry veteran—you shouldn’t ever expect to skip any steps simply because you found an “in.” While the people in your professional network are probably more than happy to help you start the conversation or give you general feedback, they don’t have the time to do everything.
And more importantly, they probably don’t want to. It’s up to you to commit to getting all the required materials completed and submitted, or to follow up with a hiring manager, or to finish whatever they started for you. Because if you lean on your connections for this too much, they’ll eventually start to tune you out.
This advive might’ve been tough for you to take. And if that’s the case, don’t worry. We’ve all made someone’s life a little harder than it needed to be during our job search. But if you’re willing to swallow your pride and learn from your mistakes, you’ll quickly figure out how to make the most of the help you receive from your connections—and avoid annoying anyone in your professional network ever again.
Photo of unhappy person courtesy of JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy or follow his blog.More from this Author