When I was trying to start my career, I took advice from just about anyone who was willing to talk to me. This seemed like a good idea at the time, but there was one major flaw in this thinking: I had a hard time figuring out which tips I should take—and more importantly, which ones made no sense at all for me. All the wisdom (and “wisdom”) I received started to blur together and eventually I had no choice but to say, “Enough is enough!” Well, at least to myself about asking everyone under the sun for their thoughts on how I could land my dream job.
So, based on some very real experiences I’ve had in my career, here are a few people you should ask for help in your search. But possibly more importantly, the types of people you should avoid if you don’t want to waste anyone’s time (including your own).
Do Ask Friends With Writing Skills for Help With Your Resume
OK, I’m not just saying this because I write for a living. And I’m not even saying that you should only ask people for help if they get paid to write for a living. In fact, long before I started doing this full-time, I regularly helped my friends improve their resumes.
Not only are these people better at those tricky grammar basics and more likely to spot a typo, they’re storytellers. And considering that most resumes are snoozefests, having a compelling story to tell can really set you apart.
But Don’t Ask Professional Writers (or Editors) You Never Speak To
Most writers I know are pretty friendly, but they’re typically not in a position to help just anyone they happen to be connected with on LinkedIn. Yes, even if they are truly passionate about what they do for a living.
More often than not, people who don’t really know you would expect to be compensated for editing your application. After all, it’s an in-demand skill and they’re likely just as busy as you. So don’t be shocked if you reach out and get a no.
Do Talk to People in Your Desired Field if You’re Considering a Career Change
Back when I’d read articles on sites I wanted to write for, I always said to myself, “Geez, I wonder how these writers got to where they are, because that seems like an awesome thing to do with your life.” It took me a while to realize this, but those people are also the best source of information about how you can transition into that type of work.
Sure, you might not know those people directly. But, you can do some digging on LinkedIn to see who your connections might know. I’d venture to say you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how big your network is. All you need is one person to introduce you and you’re off and running. And no, you’re not screwed if your network doesn’t turn up any leads—you’re just going to have to shoot off a few more cold call emails than you’d like. (Luckily for you, we have a few LinkedIn templates to get you started on that not-so-fun task.)
But Don’t Talk to People Who Have Known What They’ve Wanted to Do Since Forever
Some people are just really fortunate. I’m talking about your friends who woke up one morning in the second grade and said to themselves, “I want a job in fashion, and I’m going to figure out how to make it in that field even if it kills me.” (Yes, some people in second grade are quite ruthless.) Then, those people become wildly successful in what they set out to do.
What they don’t often become, however, is sympathetic to the plight of anyone who didn’t wake up with a similar realization early in life. When I began my career, I spoke to a few folks like this, and often they’d say, “Well, why don’t you just pick something and stick with it?” I’d typically respond by saying, “That would be ideal, so could you go out and pick something for me? Great, thanks.”
As helpful as they try to be, the people you know who are doing exactly what they thought they’d be doing in elementary school aren’t the quickest to offer actionable and sincere advice. So, do yourself a favor and look elsewhere.
Do Be Bold and Ask Friends for Favors
With sites like LinkedIn showing you who your connections know, it’s less surprising than ever for professionals to get emails that say, “Hey, hope you’ve been well. My buddy’s looking for a job at your company. If you can connect with her, I’ll buy you lunch!” Sure, it might feel awkward to take advantage of a second or third degree relationship you have with someone, but if you’re really looking to get ahead in your job search, it’s important to jump on the networking opportunities you’re given, especially if a friend’s willing to set things up for you.
Plus I can personally attest to this considering that I found a few of my previous jobs through friends of friends. And regarding the interviews I’ve gotten through these kinds of connection, I’ve honestly lost count at this point. So, swallow your pride and don’t be afraid to reach out to people you’re not BFFs with during your search.
Check Out Amazing Companies Hiring Now
But Don’t Cold Call Celebrities in Your Field Without a Plan
I won’t name names, but a few years ago, I was desperate to break into full-time writing however I could. And to do that, I decided to send a cold email to a highly respected writer. I’m not talking about a super tailored and personalized message like the one that scored Muse writer Kat Moon a response from Arianna Huffington.
I’m talking about an incredibly desperate one in which I established nothing but the fact that I had zero experience and really wanted to pick his brain. Of course, this person never responded. And while Kat Moon’s story is proof that you shouldn’t completely rule out the idea of sending a cold email to someone you respect, it’s also evidence that it requires a lot more thought than most emails you’ll send during your search.
It can be hard to turn down advice, especially when people in your life are willing to offer it up. However, the line between good and bad help in your job search is a lot clearer than most people want to admit. While you should always remain gracious whenever anyone shares his or her knowledge, trust your judgment when it comes down to deciding who to listen to.
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.More from this Author