May 27, 2014
You need a new job, so you put the word out to your network. Then you wait. And sometimes you wait and you wait. You begin to wonder if your network has forgotten all about you. You’re tempted to reach out again, but you know there’s a fine line between being a go-getter and being annoying. Most of us aren’t in the position of looking for jobs all of the time, so that line can be difficult to see.
Amanda Marko has networked her way into every job in her career. Today she is president of Connected Strategy Group. I asked her how to keep a job search that is important to you, but not as important to others, front and center without being a bother.
SH: When is it OK to use a mass email?
AM: I’ve seen people in my network use mass emails to great effect. To work, they need to be short and to the point. Only do it once – and I don’t just mean once per job search; I mean once per decade. These messages are most effective when the circumstances are that you suddenly lost your job, especially in a way that others are going to know about, such as mass layoffs or a business closing. Your network will hear the news and wonder if you were affected, so jump at the chance to ride the wave of their goodwill.
Be specific about what you’re asking for and be sure to include your resume.
I once received an email from someone in my network who has a massive network himself. He probably emailed a few hundred people and the message he sent was long and rambling. It included his varied past experiences—and they were very varied—and his future hopes and dreams, which were also varied and abstract. He was in a career transition and was reaching out for help, but I could not make sense of what he actually wanted and needed.
Don’t play the mass email card more than once or you risk looking pathetic.
SH: What about personal emails?
AM: Personal messages should be your preferred method of contact. Keep it short. Use the person’s name and be sure to inquire about something personal, recall a project that you worked on together, or retell an inside joke. Doing do will stir emotion and make the person you’re asking for help more inclined to go out of their way for you. They will be reminded why they like you. Then you can ask them for something. Be specific. Are you asking for a reference, a referral, a lead, an introduction, some ideas, moral support? Whatever it is, make it clear and make it easy for them to give it. Attach your resume onto every message.
SH: Personal contact is better, right?
AM: A face-to-face meeting makes you more memorable and your needs more clear. It’s also harder to say no or ignore someone right in front of you. Buy coffee. Stop by the office. Meet for an after-work drink. It’s time well-spent. It’s also going to be a longer conversation than an email or phone call. During the course of it you’ll have a chance to tell your story, make an emotional, memorable connection, and you can use the time to brainstorm together.
During one such meeting the person I was with started the conversation by saying ‘I don’t have anything to offer you.’ By the end, he had given me three solid leads and a couple of pieces of memorable advice. Our being together gave him time to gain a deeper understanding of my needs and he left with that knowledge and was able to identify concrete ways to help me.
SH: It seems like people are using the phone less these days, right?
AM: Hello? When did we start only making pre-scheduled phone calls? In a job search you need to stand out. Do the unexpected. Dial a phone number and ask to speak to a person. Yes, you might catch them at an awkward time, in which case, schedule another call. But you might catch them in the car, or standing in line, or just after they’ve had a conversation with someone who mentioned that they have a job opening on their team. It’s a risk, but it’s one worth taking.
SH: So how do you follow up on all these efforts without being a pest?
AM: Follow up, but give it a pause. Persistence is good, especially for a job seeker. But temper your persistence with the reality that your job search isn’t top-of-mind for anyone in your network. If you’ve already left a message and haven’t heard back, don’t take it personally. But also don’t take it as permission to keep them on speed dial until you receive a response. Give people in your network the benefit of the doubt that they genuinely want to help you. Maybe your first attempt caught them at a bad time or they just forgot.
I’ve been guilty of this myself when I was on the other side of the phone call. More often than not, I’ve been thankful that the job seeker gave me a gentle nudge when I’ve failed to follow through.
When I’m the job seeker, my formula for successful follow-up looks like this:
I send an email immediately after meeting someone to thank them and recap the meeting. That makes it easy for them to hit reply and follow through on whatever they promised—contact information for someone, a link to a job listing they saw, etc.
If I need them to do something like make a virtual introduction, I compose a short copy-and-paste message that they can send. I ask to be cc’d on their message, and I assure my contact that I will do all the follow-up – they don’t have to stay in the loop once the virtual introduction is made.
I attach my resume to this message.
However, if four to seven days pass and I haven’t heard back, then a one-line email, with the original email below is my next move. My resume is also attached to this message. It usually works.
If I still don’t receive a response, then my options are: drop it or find another excuse to contact them like congratulating them on some news or forwarding a useful article. The best sales person I know gave me the recommendation that if I find another excuse to contact them, don’t mention the job. “They already know; don’t bring it up,” he said. “They’ll help if they can. If they can’t right now, then let it be and keep the relationship on good terms. Don’t make it awkward in the future by constantly reminding them that they dropped the ball.”
SH: How can you be the kind of person whom others want to help?
AM: If you’ve influenced someone, they will help you. There are two ways to increase your influence. First, lead with a story that creates an emotional connection. Reveal your passion and your humanity to our network, and they will feel compelled to help you.
Second, pay it forward. Always seize opportunities to increase your job search karma and, in the process, your influence. You must do for others all the things you are asking your network to do for you. Expect to give 10 times more than you receive. Don’t just go to your network with your hand out. Have something to offer them. Find out what your network needs from you and facilitate introductions, make travel recommendations, refer a good landscaper–whatever they need. You will be remembered and often rewarded for it.
SH: Gratitude goes a long way, and it gives you an excuse to stay in touch with people, doesn’t it?
AM: Along the way, thank everyone. Handwritten thank you notes should be sent every time someone goes out of their way for you, takes time to meet, etc.
At the end of your successful search, thank everyone again—even those that didn’t help you and ignored your carefully timed, polite messages. Thank those who gave you leads that didn’t pan out. Thank those who gave you a lead that led to the lead that that led to the job. Thank those who supported you emotionally. A mass email announcing your exciting new role should include a heartfelt thank you. Gifts are also called for at times. When I was searching for a job overseas, I sent vintage champagne to the friend who gave me the lead.
SH: You’ve talked a lot about the human touch.
AM: Spending your days rewriting your resume and your nights researching companies isn’t the only want to job search. Get out of the house and be visible. If you run into people from your networks at social events, you’ll have the chance have an impromptu face-to-face meeting. Getting out will also keep your spirits up.
SH: Because no one want to help a whiner or complainer.
AM: Even if it goes against your nature, stay positive. Most everyone in your network has been touched by the economic woes of the last six years. Possibly they or a family member have lost a job and been in your job-searching shoes. And most everyone has felt the increased stress from the threat of job loss. You’re not the only one looking for a job; you’re one of millions. So don’t remind your network of the stress and bad times of their past or that they fear will be in their future.
Negativity is a turn-off. Don’t reveal your frustrations, disappointments or fears to anyone but your closest confidantes. To your network, you should radiate positive energy, enthusiasm and resilience. Plus, the more positive you are, the more open to opportunity, which sometimes comes in unexpected forms.
If you’re interested in receiving a free copy of Marko’s “Fool-Proof Guide to Jumpstarting Your Transformation into a Person of Influence,” you can download it here.