People who are out of work or job hunting for any reason are already sitting in a frustrated zone of life.
I’ve observed that some people are great at helping friends and former colleagues network, brainstorm, and look for connections that lead to a great new job.
But most people don’t do this well at all (mostly because they have difficulty putting themselves into other peoples’ shoes.)
I want to show you how to really help people you know who are in job transition.
I’ll start with a story about someone who helped a friend with networking and a job connection who did it very well.
A former colleague of mine told me a story about a job listing he saw online several years ago. He called a friend who worked at the company only to find out the friend had left that firm a couple months earlier. However, his astute friend offered to take his résumé (via email) and find out who the hiring manager was. He said he still had great contacts at his former firm.
After asking around about the position and who the hiring manager was, he contacted the hiring manager by phone, told her he knew she was looking to hire someone for “X” position, and that he knew someone who would be fantastic and suggested she bring him in for an interview.
He then emailed my colleague’s résumé to her, again reiterating what he told her on the phone. The hiring manager brought my colleague in for an interview and he eventually got the job.
The “secret” is that my colleague’s friend worked it! He found out who the hiring manager was and then contacted her directly and sold her on my colleague for the position. He didn’t postpone what he said he would do. He didn’t drag his feet. He got on the phone and on email to find out who the hiring manager was right away and then contacted her.
Now that’s a friend helping a friend with a job hunt!
Too many people are not good at helping others find a job.
You need to remember that people who have lost a job, in particular, are scared, embarrassed, frustrated, hurting, and/or exhausted.
You have a choice: You can either help them or frustrate them more.
I want to share with you some ideas for how you can help people. (The upside is that some day you may need help, too. If you do a good job at helping someone in their job hunt, they will be very willing to help you in the future.)
Please note that I didn’t write “text” or “email”. Call them. These people need to “think out loud.” In order to do that, they need a good listener on the other end of the phone. Even if you’re not sure if you have the network of people they need to meet, they still need to talk.
Do you have the ability to listen to someone, repeat what you heard them say, toss out ideas here and there, and focus solely on that person during the conversation? That means you don’t talk about yourself or tell stories about yourself or others that don’t have a direct application to the job hunter.
I cannot tell you how many times I needed to talk things out and the “listener” told me all kinds of stories about the company they work for, the issues they’re having at work, and/or stories of other people who got jobs (but those people aren’t in a similar level to me).
It’s similar to when someone is grieving the death of a loved one, and the “listener” tells the griever all about their experiences with people dying. Do you know what that is? It’s making another person’s situation all about you.
The time to discuss your own stories is when the other person is not in pain.
People who are in job transition are in pain. When you talk with them, keep whatever you say to be relevant. Otherwise, listen and ask good questions.
Any information you give or stories you tell must relate directly to what the other person is going through.
If you toss out ideas, here is a very important point I’m going to share with you: Make sure to not frustrate the job hunter by giving them ideas they’ve already tried. If you hear them say, “I’ve done that already” or “I’ve tried that”, please be aware that they feel as if they’ve already tried out your idea and it didn’t work. Maybe you’re suggesting a different way than they tried. However, remember: You have to make this about them, not about you. If your friend is getting frustrated by your suggestions, that probably means you’re making the conversation all about you.
Instead, start off asking him what he has already done so far. If you want to know more about what he did for “X”, ask him. That way you can find out if an idea you have is different from what he already tried.
For example, if he’s been to networking meetings (in a large group or individually with one other person) and he gave people his résumé, suggest he create a handbill instead to give to people who might be able to make a job connection for him.
(A handbill is a much better tool to give to someone to remind them “who” you’re trying to meet. Go to your favorite search engine and type “how to write a handbill” for examples. The goal of a handbill is to help other people know what you’re looking for, who you want to meet, and which companies [or industries] you’re interested in.)
Do you catch what my message is here? Don’t frustrate people. They’re already frustrated with their situation and they don’t need more of that. If you want to give them ideas, find out what they haven’t done yet and suggest it. Be a great listener and a limited talker.
People in a job hunt don’t want to become a pest to anyone. If you tell her you’re going to do something (such as contact someone you know at a company she’s interested in to see if they’ll talk to her, ask a friend to review her résumé as a favor to see if it can be improved, or anything else), then get back to her one or two days later to follow up, even if you haven’t heard back from the other person you’re waiting on yet. Otherwise she’ll wonder what is going on with your follow up, if she should contact you now or wait a couple more days, and getting – what’s the word? – frustrated!
It’s okay to follow up by email (rather than a phone call) to write something like, “I just wanted to let you know that I left a message for So & So. I’m waiting to hear back from him. I’ll let you know when I do.” (And if So & So isn’t getting back to you timely, try again.)
If you follow up with the job hunter by email regarding something you said you were going to do, it’s possible that he won’t completely understand what you’re writing. He may think, “Does she mean ‘A’ or ‘B’?” Next, he’ll wonder if he should reply right away with another question, and if he does, how many emails is it going to take to clear up what you really mean? And then he’ll wonder if you will get frustrated and if he’s being a pest.
You know what would clear it up immediately? Follow up your email (on the same day or the following day) with a phone call. Ask if she understood your email and if she has any further questions for clarification. You can clear up a lot via a live phone call. If you get voicemail, leave a message and invite her to call you back.
I once had two people tell me to go ahead and email a guy they knew, but I didn’t have an email address for either guy! And they both knew I didn’t have their email addresses.
In both situations I gently emailed back something like, “How do you think I should contact him?”
“Send him an email,” they both wrote.
At this point I was thinking, “I don’t have access to his email address. If I send you another email about this, are you going to get fed up with me?”
And on and on it went via email, back and forth for days. In both cases, a telephone conversation would have cleared up the whole thing in two minutes.
As I was writing this article, a friend let me know she was losing her job in three weeks with no severance pay. She asked if she could pay me to update her résumé, but this is a person who was responsible for introducing me to a former client, and that turned into a lot of revenue; I told her I would update her résumé for free. She offered to meet me for lunch (and treat) on the following Saturday so that we could discuss her résumé. On the following day, Sunday, I remembered to practice what I preach. (If I waited until the weekdays to update her résumé, it would be several days before I sent it to her. I knew how that would make her feel – frustrated! – and that she would wonder if she should contact me, if she would be bothering me, etc.)
So I worked on her résumé on Sunday and emailed it to her that evening. She opened it the following morning and replied, “This is fantastic!” I knew she was relieved. (Plus, I communicated clearly, so she didn’t have any follow up questions. If she had sent more questions, I would have called her to clear up all of her questions in a brief phone call.)
Do you understand what I’m writing here?
If you offer to help someone out by making an introduction, reviewing their résumé, checking anything for them, do it! And do it timely!
If you offer to help someone with “X” and you get an email or a phone call from them asking how “X” is going (and your last contact with each other was more than two days ago), you are not helping them well. You can do better.
A job hunter, “John”, who hasn’t been in a job search for a long time, needs some assistance from people who know him well to figure out which roles he can perform at a company, which departments or divisions in companies would be a good fit, and he needs to figure out how to put the role he wants into words. He knows he needs to do those things first and then he can update his résumé accordingly. (He might need some assistance with that, too.)
John starts out his research by contacting people who know him well. He’s looking for a couple people to help him with the things you just read in the previous paragraph.
So, John contacts a person who knows him well. He tells that person what is going on in his life.
And then he hears this:
“John, you need to figure out what you want to do first.”
Um, yeah. He knows that.
“John, before you look for a new job, you need to update your résumé. And you need to figure out what you want to do – what role at a company you want.”
Um, yeah. He knows that, too.
These types of phrases are so frustrating for “John” to hear. He knows he needs to do that. He is asking for your help to craft it.
Can you help him? Will you help him?
When a job seeker sounds directionless, they are asking for your help to clarify their direction:
- To brainstorm with them.
- To think of other options.
- To put those options and roles into words.
Rather, ask them if they would like your help to brainstorm ideas.
I’ve experienced people who recently met me who had the ability to brainstorm with me and come up with another role or two that would be a good fit.
If a near stranger can do that for me, certainly you can do that for someone you know.
The point is, don’t frustrate the person by suggesting the obvious and then not offering to help them figure it out.
Rather, ask if they would like your help to brainstorm ideas (or whatever it is), and then do it. Help them figure it out.
Once your friend has one (or two or three) role possibilities, they can update their résumé (again, they might need help with that, too).
Then they can begin to contact others in their network to ask about people they know in certain industries and companies, and to ask for referrals.
After that, they can contact those new contacts, asking for a brief meeting to find out about each person’s career path, their industry, and their company. They’re not asking for a job or about job openings. They’re just expanding their network
Please be aware that while you can see the email addresses of the people you’re connected to on LinkedIn, other people cannot see it.
If you are connected to Tim Johnson and to Sam Smith, you can see email addresses for both of them when you click them (well, as long as they made that part of their profile).
However, if Tim and Sam are not connected to each other, they cannot see each other’s email address.
If Tim looks through your LinkedIn connections and wants an introduction to Sam, be aware that Tim doesn’t have access to Sam’s contact information. You do.
If you use LinkedIn to make an introduction to them (“Tim, meet Sam. Sam, meet Tim.”), they’ll both receive the message in their email via LinkedIn, but they won’t be able to contact each other because they don’t have contact information for each other.
To help Tim out, you could send a regular email to Sam, call Sam, etc. You can contact Sam and ask him to do you a favor and take Tim’s call (or return Tim’s email), stating that Tim is expanding his network and wants to have a brief conversation.
And then contact Tim and give him Sam’s contact information.
Now is a great time to learn how to help people well! They will never forget your assistance because most people are terrible at it and your wonderful help will stand out like a bright star.
Some day, when you need help and reach out to them, they will be the best people on your “team.”
- Call job seekers early & often.
- Be a good listener & a good talker.
- Get back to people within 24 hours.
- Don't tell them things they already know & not offer to help.
- Be aware of how LinkedIn works.
- Don't frustrate people. Help them!
©2011 Borgeson Consulting, Inc.
Glory Borgeson, President
2011 Borgeson Consulting, Inc.
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