You’ve purposely gone out and networked so that you’ll have people to ask for help finding a job.
But instead of responding to you with amazing job openings, they simply say, “Let me know what I can do to help.” So, you just reply with “Thanks!” because you’re not quite sure what to say back.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are lots of ways your contacts can help you job search even if they can’t get you an interview at their company, you just have to know what to ask.
Try one of these four questions:
1. To the Friend With a Sharp Eye: “Could You Proofread My Resume?”
You’ve looked at your resume so many times that you know it by heart. That’s a good thing—except when it comes to checking it over a final time. Because if you’ve missed typos on every prior read-through, there’s a chance you won’t catch them before you send in your application.
And cutting errors out of your materials is an important step to landing more interviews. Especially because most positions require attention to detail—and sending in a typo-free resume is one easy way to show that you have it.
2. To the Person in Your Dream Role: “Am I Highlighting the Right Experience?”
Company cultures vary, as do the skills needed to excel in a given position. If your contact works at your target company or does the kind of work you hope to do, ask for more specific feedback. Muse writer Jon Carpenter suggests you ask someone with firsthand knowledge about how you described your skills using these four questions:
- “How would you react to [someone] claiming to have these traits?”
- “Is there anything on this you don’t believe or that makes you pause?”
- “Can you think of any better words to use than the ones I have here?”
- “Are there any red flags or gold stars that stand out?”
Job descriptions are often lengthy, so you have to choose which qualifications you’ll describe in depth. Based on your contact’s feedback, you’ll be able to make sure you highlight the right ones, which’ll help you have the strongest, most relevant application possible.
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3. To the Contact Who Knows Everyone: “Can You Introduce Me to [Other Person]?”
Asking your professional contacts if their company’s hiring is a good first step. But you can—and should—take your outreach a step further by seeing if they know other people who might know something. It immediately turns one connection into several more, because you’re tapping into their networks too.
Muse writer Aja Frost suggests the following template to ask for an introduction:
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been [thinking about doing freelance web development/looking to transition to PR/trying to meet experienced sales directors]. I noticed you’re connected to [Name]—would you be comfortable introducing me? I think [reason why meeting person would be helpful].
Thanks so much,
Feel free to swap out the last line with either, “I’d like to learn more about his company/industry/role” or “I’m interested in applying to a role at [his company] at would love to speak with someone who works there.”
4. To the Experienced Career Changer: “How Did You Make the Shift?”
If you’re looking to change industries, it can be really helpful to talk to someone who’s already done it. Hearing a success story can help you in those moments when you’re feeling uncertain. And learning what helped them be successful (or what they wish they’d done differently), can help you avoid making common mistakes.
Look for people whose career path is similar to yours’. For example, do you know someone who made the leap from the for-profit to the nonprofit sector? Or who moved from a client-facing role to a management position? (If no, circle back to question three and see if anyone in your network knows someone who’ll share their career change story with you.)
It takes a lot of courage to reach out to someone and ask for his or her help. Therefore, you may feel nervous about making a more targeted ask, because you’re afraid it’ll look presumptuous.
In actuality, being specific often comes off as more thoughtful, because you’ve taken the guesswork out of it for your contact. This way, he or she knows exactly the size of the favor you’re looking for—and can feel good that they’ll be able to actually add value to your job search. So, go on and ask the question that’ll give you the help you need to move to the next stage of the process.
Photo of people having coffee courtesy of Portra Images/Getty Images.
Sara McCord is a freelance writer and editor, who most frequently covers the career beat. For nearly three years, she was an editor at The Muse, and she's regularly contributed career advice to Mashable. Her advice has been published across the web (Forbes, Newsweek, Fast Company,TIME, Inc., Business Insider, CNBC and more). Sara has experience managing programs; recruiting, interviewing, and referring job applicants; building strategic partnerships; advising executive directors; and supporting a national network of volunteers. Learn more and send her a note through her website, or follow her on Twitter @sarajmccord.More from this Author