So you’re looking for a job, and you’ve turned to your LinkedIn groups to help you out. That’s great! Your college alumni association, sorority, and professional interest groups on LinkedIn are full of people who are generally inclined to help—and all you have to do is ask.
Well, all you have to do is ask the right way.
The truth is, asking for help from your digital connections takes a little bit of finesse. For example, I’m a fashion-tech CEO who genuinely enjoys helping young women with career development, so I’m always happy to help my contacts find a job or internship in fashion, e-commerce, PR, marketing, or tech startups. However, I’m swamped with work and don’t always have time to think about how to provide that help, unless someone spells out for me exactly what she needs.
So, when you’re the one asking for help, your goal should be to write a post that will immediately tell a distracted, time-crunched, but very willing connection like me how to help you. Follow these five rules, and you’ll be on your way to turning your LinkedIn connections into the job or internship of your dreams!
1. Put Your “Ask” in the Subject Line
I read my LinkedIn notifications when I wake up each morning—along with about 100 other overnight emails (this morning’s non-spam count was 137!). If you don’t tell me what you want in those first 200 characters—either in the headline of your post to the group or the subject line of your message to me—I’m on to the next email.
Also remember to use the subject line to ask, not to pitch. For example, if I see a headline in my sorority group notification that says, “Bright, eager, self-starting new graduate from Beta Pi chapter—University of Florida with a degree in mass communications, a minor in public relations, and a varsity letter in soccer,” I might do a little Kappa Delta-pride fist-pump, but I’m not going to be able to help you find a job. Use this prime real estate to quickly tell me how I can help you. On that note:
2. Be as Specific as Humanly Possible
The more specific your request, the more likely I am to think of a way to help you before my mind wanders back to those other 100 unopened emails.
For example, if you write, “looking for a marketing internship,” your only hope is that I happen to be looking for a marketing intern right at that moment and am willing to click through to the discussion to see if you’re a fit. However, if you write, “looking for a summer marketing internship in NYC with an e-commerce company like Warby Parker or Bonobos,” I might remember that I know someone at Warby Parker. It doesn’t matter if my contact is looking for interns—I can easily shoot your resume over with a note saying that Warby is one of your favorite companies and ask her to please consider you when she’s next hiring.
Even if you don’t know exactly what you want, you lose nothing by naming a few companies. Specificity is always helpful in reminding your connections who they know.
3. Make it Easy to Get to “Know” You
Remember, every time you ask someone to recommend you, you’re essentially asking her to put her own professional reputation on the line a little bit. So make it easy for your contacts to get comfortable recommending you. Make sure your post is thoughtful, concise, and well-written and that your LinkedIn profile is complete and up-to-date. Include your Twitter handle in the details of your post so people can quickly get a sense for your personality. (Implicit in this suggestion is that you should keep your Twitter handle current and professionally appropriate with at least a few thoughtful tweets on your industry.) Bonus points if you include a link to your Tumblr (or other blog) where you discuss the industry you want to enter.
4. Make it Easy to Forward Your Info
Include a link to a PDF of your resume (you can use Google Docs or any similar service to do this) in the body of your message so that your contacts can easily forward it on. Make sure that resume has all your contact info as well. I don’t have time to go back and forth with you to get your resume as an attachment—it’s much easier when it’s all in one, easily forwardable place.
5. Let Them Know if Someone Reaches Out to You
If a potential employer contacts you and says you were recommended by someone, find this person on LinkedIn and reach out immediately! Even if you’ve never met him or her before (which is not unlikely, if you’ve reached out to a big professional group to help you). Not only is it good karma (and good manners!) to thank someone who’s helped you, but your recommender may be able to help you further with interview advice or a stronger recommendation now that she knows the company is interested.
Lastly, please, please, please do not tell the company that you only know your referrer through a LinkedIn group. If asked, it’s sufficient to say something like “she’s a fellow alum who offered to help with my career development.”
And that happens to be the truth—there are lots of connections are out there willing to help. They’re just waiting for you to tell them how!