If you’re in the midst of a job hunt that seems to be going nowhere very s-l-o-w-l-y, don’t tell me, “Stop nagging me; I guess my friends know I’m looking for a job, gawd.” Not good enough, Sunshine. Your job search is your responsibility. Haven’t you noticed that most people can barely write their own name correctly on their LinkedIn profile? I’m talking about people who appear to be channeling 1990s Prince, writing their names using a “free-spirited” mixture of upper-and lower-case letters, without rhyme or reason or Strunk and White. That insanity makes me cackle, until I start to feel depressed. I want to snicker but I feel guilt. I haz a conflicted. It’s like the people who write their titles on LinkedIn in quotation marks. Wait, I don’t understand: are you an attorney or an “attorney,” I’m “confused.”
In light of that, here are 9 things to keep in mind while you’re building your network and convincing all of those friends in all the right places to help you get a job.
1. Tell your friends about yourself and what you want.
Don’t take it for granted that they already know these things. If you’re searching for a new job in 2014, it’s your responsibility to make sure your friends know what kind of job you’re looking for, in what industry and why. Why are you interested in this industry, and what kind of relevant experience and education do you offer? You’re asking people to put their professional reputations on the line for you, so the fact that you sat next to someone in second grade in Mrs. Wells’ class, or remember that one time at Becky Nussbaum’s wedding, you both got wasted on sangria… No. While touching, that isn’t going to cut it. You’re going to need to articulate all of the solid skills you offer, making it clear why it’s in someone’s interest to help you. In fact, you may have to identify the people you want them to speak with on your behalf, and very likely you’re going to have to tell them what they should say. When you do this right, the person will realize how good they’ll look recommending you and bam! #don’tbothertothankmebutyesyoushould
2. Remember that most people can barely advocate for their own goals.
Many people are their own worst enemies. Many people become physically ill at the thought of writing their own resume, forget about helping someone else. Then, you factor in that people are trying to live their lives, keep up on their daily wine intake, buy crap they don’t need, watch porn, get married, post photos of their cats on Instagram, ignore their children, and generally, find things to be outraged about. Most people are busy. Given all that, do you seriously think other people are going to take the time to decide how best they can help you, and then tweak your resume, and write a pitch and sell you? I don’t know what planet you live on, but I’m excited for you! It sounds hella cool, like they’d probably have free-range unicorns and cookies. Unfortunately, I’m stuck here in Queens, where people have to create the opportunities they need to succeed. So, let’s get to work!
3. Identify the companies you’re interested in.
Do you like big firms or small companies? Think back, honestly, over your professional experience and consider the jobs you enjoyed the most. What made those experiences work for you? The more you can recognize the factors you enjoyed—such as types of management, company size, values, personality—the more you can start searching for, and identifying, similar companies. You can start by looking up the Facebook pages of companies you worked for; Facebook will suggest similar company pages. Research those companies: check out their social media, look at their websites, Google articles about the companies and their staff, follow them on LinkedIn, and search out, on LinkedIn, their employees. All of these actions will both tell you more about the companies, and lead you to similar firms you might not otherwise have known about. If you’re feeling really adventurous, the public library always has industry guides to give you even more information and leads. You should end up with a list of at least 15 companies. More is better. Job-hunting, after all is a process, and you want to keep your options open.
4. Start going through your network to see whom you know at any of those companies.
If you don’t have any friends directly at any of the companies in question, you’re going to have to dig deeper — LinkedIn makes this extremely easy, by the way — and see who in your network knows someone at these companies. Remember, your network includes your elementary school, high school, Little League teams, Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts, choir, orchestra, 4H, college, trade school, grad school, sports teams, honor societies, sororities and fraternities. Unless you spent your entire life as a Luddite, churning your own butter, I can pretty much guarantee that you’re six degrees of separation removed from someone, anyone at a company you want to work for.
5. PS: Your network also includes parents and siblings.
You may not have gone to Harvard, but if your sister did, and you make it easy for her, don’t tell me she won’t contact people in the Harvard alumni association and help you. True, I was raised an only child; on Christmas morning, I never had to share — how sweet it was!; and I don’t know the delicate psychological dance that is having brothers and sisters… but. Considering how much people love to be asked for their advice, I can’t believe that if you don’t flatter your sister a bit, she won’t help you. (Worst case scenario: threaten to tell mom. Listen. You need a job, right? Whatever it takes, kid. Eventually, on her death bed, your sister will probably stop hating you. Probably. ) After all this, you have a list of the names of people in your network at your ideal companies. This list is where you launch your plan of attack.
6. Tweak your resume and LinkedIn profile to better reflect your experience, education and interest in these companies.
Ideally, your goal is to end up with documents that make almost compulsive reading for people in your desired industry. Your goal is to end up with a LinkedIn profile and resume demonstrating your understanding of the industry in question, and the (potential) profit you bring. You want a LinkedIn profile and resume showing that your experience and education is relevant, cutting-edge and highly beneficial to the company’s goals. You want a resume and LinkedIn profile that gives the reader an immediate reason to call you. You want a resume that when your friend/sister/golf buddy’s aunt’s sorority sister passes it on to her boss, he reads it and says, “Kelly, you know some very interesting people. Thank you!” The boss is impressed, Kelly looks good, and you’re on your way.
7. Remember that you need to sell yourself, too.
Let’s say you realize a friend from college works at a company you’re very interested in. Since people are busy and usually uncomfortable advocating for others, your email to that person, while concise, must explain, with as many details as possible, why you’re bothering them and why it’s worth their time to help you. Not enough to remind them of all the awesome times you had in college. Nope. You’re going to have to write a very short (two paragraphs maximum) email explaining why you’re interested in the company, what relevant skills and education you offer, and what type of job in that company you want. Ideally, you want to write an email so good that your friend can simply hit send on it, adding, at most, a sentence or two explaining your connection, adding that she knows you’re an excellent candidate. Most people can hit send for you. Most people, however, will NOT take the time to write this type of email. Therefore, if you just send someone your email and a vague note that you’re looking for a job, they’ll forward it to HR, and without explanation, HR will probably just delete it. And you just wasted your connection. If you make it easy, and worth their while, good people will send your resume to other people in the company, people whom they know will be interested in a candidate of your stature.
8. Realize that some people whom you’re sure will help…won’t.
In fact, quite a few won’t. Don’t take it personally. Meanwhile, other people who you know in your bones loathe and despise you, will shock you with their generosity and support. So before you decide that everyone from your high school is an asshole…take a breath. Relax and cut them some slack. Times change. People change. You probably changed, as well.
9. Remember that no one is above asking for help and networking.
And if you decide that networking is beneath you — despite it working so well for, you know, the kings and queens of Europe — but if you decide it’s beneath your dignity to network the opportunities you need, if you think that people should just magically divine how best they can help you…alas. Just remember, you’re not punishing all the morons in your law school. You’re only punishing yourself. And your goals. And your potential. And that’s a damn shame.