Here’s a weird part about being at the top of the proverbial career ladder: When you decide you want or need to look for a new job, it can feel very weird asking for help. Put more succinctly—it can be hard to admit that you’re feeling any sort of overwhelm or uncertainty about how to get from Point A to Point B.
You became a business leader because you’re capable, confident, and intelligent, right? So, it may feel like you’re showing weakness if you ask for help.
You are not showing weakness. Get that out of your head. Very few people sit around studying the art and science of job search, until you go to change your job. So why would you be naturally good at it?
You wouldn’t be. But you can step out like you were born doing it, while (importantly) enlisting the help of the people in your network. Because, yes (times 1,000), this is a relationship game.
Here’s a simple, four-part email formula that I use when supporting top leaders with career transition. It’s designed to give you an easy, effective way to tell people what you’re up to and how, specifically, they can assist.
Step 1: Spell Out the Purpose of Your Note and the Overall Goal
We all get bombarded with email. Senior leaders, in general, get bombarded the most. So, especially if you’re reaching out to other execs, it’s going to go a long way if you keep your email short, conversational, and to-the-point. Do not make this thing painful to read, or you’ll lose your audience.
I recommend that you start out with a brief overview of what’s going on for you professionally and where you’re trying to head next. Be specific, but again—don’t rattle on. And, importantly, if you’re working under the radar, be sure to mention right out of the gates that you’ll appreciate the note being treated as confidential. (And, choose who you share this with wisely.)
I hope all is well!
As you may know, I’ve been heading up the Global Business Development team at Jones Inc. for four years. It’s been a great job and I’ve gained considerable knowledge of the Asia Pacific technology sector. I’m hoping to leverage this experience and transition into a similar role with a larger manufacturing firm in 2018. I’m reaching out to ask for your help.
Step 2: Give Clarity to What (Specifically) You’re Looking For
How many times in life have you told someone, “Oh, you’re looking for a new job? Sure, I’ll keep an eye out.” And then done exactly nothing for that person because you had no idea what you were actually keeping an eye out for?
It’s so common for people to reach out to their networks and ask for help, but fail to paint a picture of what they want. This is usually quite ineffective.
Better instead to spell out with specificity what that next role looks like. What might it be called? What skills to you want to put to use in that role? What types of companies (or specific organizations) are you most interested in? Share a few details so that your people can really envision how they can be most useful.
To give you a better idea of what this next role may look like, here are a few job titles I’ve seen that represent well the position I’m aiming toward:
- Position 1
- Position 2
- Position 3
I’m primarily looking at manufacturers of consumer products. Here are a few that I’m really interested in (but open to others):
- Company 1
- Company 2
- Company 3
And, here at the skills I’d really like to put to use in my next position:
- Skill 1
- Skill 2
- Skill 3
Step 3: Make a Clear Ask
You’ve asked for “help” in the intro, now you’ll want to clarify what you’re hoping that help will be. Make it clear, make it entirely doable for the other person, and make it short and sweet.
I’d be most appreciative if you could share any leads you may have, or—if you have specific contacts at the companies (or types of firms) I’ve outlined—an introduction. I’m especially interested in meeting people who are tied to global operations or global business development.
Step 4: Thank Them and Offer to Reciprocate
Do not close out this letter without offering up a heartfelt thank you, for their time, their consideration, and for the assistance they’re about to provide. Sure, these are your people. They will likely go out of their way to help you, largely because they like you and will always have your back. But thank you matters, and manners are in short supply in our culture these days.
Then, offer to return the favor if they need anything from you now, or in the future. Reciprocity is a wonderful thing.
Be sure and send this note out individually (not as a “Heyy, everyone” type of affair). It will look more thoughtful, and allow you to customize it to that particular person. You might also draft the letter and simply use it as a reference document for calls and in-person conversations. This will help guide the discussion, and give you clarity through the meeting.
And last, but certainly not least, when you land that job (in part thanks to someone in your network)? Loop back and thank her once again. Might even want to throw in a nice bottle of wine. People like to feel helpful, and they like to be acknowledged.
And if they’re like me? They also never frown upon a nice bottle of wine.