The first rule of the job search is one that recent graduates and new job seekers hear over and over again, usually until they either internalize the message or tune it out: Rely on your network. No website, industry meet-and-greet, or professional recruiter can put you on the fast track to success as quickly as your social network can. Your friends and contacts are your greatest asset. And so on. And so on.
But as it happens, there’s almost always a huge gap between knowing what needs to be done and knowing how to do it. So with that in mind, here’s a quick six-step tutorial on reaching out to the remote—but potentially helpful—corners of your social network.
1. First, be strategic. Target the contacts that can help you the most, not just the contacts who are the closest to you socially. While it’s easier to reach out to a close friend than it is to reach out to a frosty ex-boss or a relative you haven’t spoken to in years, you should go straight to the source if you know that they can help you get a foot in the door.
2. Next, be brave. Don’t worry about rejection, and don’t worry that the person you’re contacting might misinterpret your gesture. Just move past all these (purely psychological) obstacles and do what needs to be done. Find the person’s contact information on LinkedIn, Facebook, or through a mutual connection.
3. Be direct. If you need an immediate connection, feel free to use the phone. But if your call isn’t scheduled beforehand, know exactly what you’re going to say in a voicemail. 99 percent of the time, email is a better option. As you start drafting your email, get to the point as quickly as possible.
4. Explain how you’re connected to the person you’re approaching. As in, “I used to work as an account manager at the XYZ firm with your daughter.” Or, “I was a student in your econ 403 course.”
5. Briefly explain your situation. Be positive. Instead of saying “I was fired from my job for gross misconduct, so now I’m looking for work,” try, “I recently lost my accounting position and I’m looking for a way back into the industry.” Or, “I’m making the transition from accounting to marketing, and I’m in the process of exploring my options.”
6. Let the person know what you’d like them to do. Keep this part as simple as possible, and frame your statement as a request for advice rather than leads or recommendations. People love giving advice, but handing out leads and offers might be too big of a request. Asking for help is always clean, professional, aboveboard and flattering. A request for anything more burdensome runs a higher risk of being ignored. After you’ve made your request, attach no strings and set no timelines for a response.
7. Express gratitude for anything your reader can offer you. End your letter on a note of thanks, even if the person hasn’t done anything for you yet. And leave them with no sense of coercion, pressure, or personal urgency. Your next move: Receiving their job search advice, and putting that advice to use.
LiveCareer (www.livecareer.com), home to America’s #1 Resume Builder, connects job seekers of all experience levels and career categories to all the tools, resources and insider tips needed to win the job. Find LiveCareer on Facebook and visit LiveCareer’s Google+ page for even more tips and advice on all things career and resume-related.
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