I recently read a post Please Don’t Send Me Your Résumé, written by Lida Citroen, which resonated with me. It’s general message was, “Don’t rely on others to do everything for you. Take responsibility for your job search.” I agree completely with her message.
Far be it for me to tell job seekers to never ask for help, because asking for help is necessary in the job search. But it’s how you ask for help that makes the difference between getting it or not.
This post is not about sending your résumé to someone for perusal it’s about five steps to take when requesting contact information for the contacts on your company target list.
First step: making first contact
Making initial contact can happen at a job seekers’ networking group or anywhere you meet people—social and family gatherings, sporting events, in the grocery store, etc. Some of your best opportunities can happen out of the blue.
For argument’s sake, let’s say your first contact is at a networking event. Congratulations, you gathered your energy to attend the event, despite engaging in a heavy day of job hunting.
Your goal at networking events is to gather valuable information and advice, especially who and how you can contact people at the companies for which you’d like to work. You should have a healthy list of 15 or 20 companies on your target company list.
During the needs and leads sessions, don’t be shy about asking for leads at your target companies. You won’t get leads at all 20 companies on your list, but you should get two or three good ones.
If someone shouts out that they know influential people at some of your companies, be sure to catch that person before you leave. Ask for her business card and ask if you can follow up with them in a day or two. Always add that you are willing to be of assistance to that person.
Now that you’ve tastefully asked your new networking connection for assistance, your work has just begun.
Second step: follow up with email
When you took your new networking connections’s personal business card, you were sure to jot down professional, as well as personal, information on the back of the card. This is information you’ll include in your email the very next day (providing it’s a business day).
“How did Emily do in her soccer game over the weekend. Did she score another hat trick?” would be a great way to start your email. It’s always nice to be remembered for something other than your previous employment.
But you want to make your intentions clear. Remind your new contact that she said she knew people at your target companies, and you are writing for that information. Be concise and direct. No lengthy email is necessary.
“Susan, I enjoyed speaking with you at the networking event in Acton. I’m following up to obtain the contact information for people at companies, X, Y, and Z. Any help you can provide me would be greatly appreciated.”
At the end of your email, inform your contact that you’ll call her at a specific time within the next few days. Because you sent her a noncommittal email, the phone call will be easier to make. Your networking connection may get back to you before you make the call.
Third step: pick up the phone
Your new contact will be expecting your call and hopefully be available to speak with you. (She may not be available, so make sure you have a well scripted message to leave her.) At the beginning of the call, ask her if this is a good time to speak. Don’t assume she will be available to talk, as she might have a legitimate commitment.
Assuming she has time to speak, start with some small talk. Tell her enjoyed that you sincerely enjoyed talking with her at the networking event, how you felt about the guest speaker, and ask her again about her daughter’s soccer game. Make the conversation light and personal at first.
When the time is right (there’s a lull in the conversation), tell her the reason for your call. At the networking event she said she knew a few contacts at your target companies. You’re wondering if she has had a chance to dig up the information you’re looking for.
Good luck, she is glad to help you, as she said she would at the networking event. Unfortunately she only could find the contact information for two out of the three people she said she would. That’s great, you tell her.
Don’t ask her to make a warm call for you; that would be asking for a lot, but do ask her if you can mention her name, with the full understanding that she can’t speak to your past performance. You and she simply met at a networking event. “Oh,” she says, “Bruce’s daughter plays soccer on Emily’s team. A decent player.”
Fourth step: contact the people at your target company
Now it’s time to request assistance from your target company contacts. You may feel more comfortable sending an e-approach note; although, jumping right in with a phone call is quicker. This is where introverts need to exercise their extraverted traits.
In the e-approach note, make sure to mention your connection. People are more accepting of a referral than receiving the email cold. Explain how you met your networking connection, who’s making the referral.
But the content of your email should be more about your interest in the contact’s company. You’ve researched the company before sending the email, so you know about the company’s products or services. You are boosting the contact’s ego.
Part of your email should be about your value to employers. How you’ve increased revenue, decreased cost and time, solved problems, etc. Don’t overdue it though; you’re not applying for a job.
And then ask if you can have 15-20 minutes of the contact’s time. Make it convenient for the recipient of your approach email. At the end of your e-approach letter, indicate when you will call for a very brief chat.
Fifth step: call the company contact
Don’t put off making the call to your company contact. You may lose your nerve. Wait no longer than two days. Mondays and Tuesdays are not great days, as they’re generally the busiest ones. Fridays are a crap shoot, as your company contact may be out that day. Wednesdays and Thursdays are generally better.
Note: Many people think that taking someone out for coffee is a nice gesture, but that might not be convenient for your company’s contact. It may be more convenient to talk on the phone. Give this person options. Tell him/her that you’ll be calling in a few days.
What are you asking for? You can say, based on your research, there may be positions available at the company, or you’d like to meet to gather information and get some advice. You’re hoping that either of these are true and would like to know what the appropriate action to take is.
Not all your company contacts will be amenable to speaking with you, so don’t be discouraged. People are busy or simply don’t care to help people who are out of work. You will receive rejection, but like sales people you must think that every rejection gets you closer to a yes.
Be prepared for your informational meeting with your company contact. Prepare a list of 10 questions—five about the position, five about the company—which are intelligent ones. Don’t ask insulting questions about dress code or lunch breaks. Remember, your goals is also to impress your company contact.
Follow up with your networking connection by letting her know how your meeting/s went with your company contact. Call her. You are now familiar with other. Most likely you will see her at the next networking event. Be sure to thank her regardless of how you communicate.
Ping her as your search progresses, and encourage her to do the same. It’s important to stay on top of mind. Make every opportunity to help your networking connection. Help others in you networking group, as well. It’s not only about reciprocation; it’s also about paying it forward.
Photo: Flickr, GotCredit