Friday, March 20, 2009

Be Specific and Do Homework

I have been hearing a lot that there are no job openings out there and folks are afraid of leading you on if they agree to a “coffee”.

My suggestion is that you be very specific about how someone can help you (this applies even during good economic times). Believe me, if folks like you, they’ll ask you if you’re interested in potential future gigs without you having to fish.

Disguising a job hunt as a vague search for information can hurt you. Be sincere, direct and open about what you want and that makes folks more comfortable about helping you.

My suggestion: forgo the job hunting approach at this time (unless you’re actually unemployed); and change your approach - use specific asks to get someone’s time and attention.

1 - Is there a particular piece of an industry for which you’re seeking information? Identifying that will help you identify individuals to approach. Asking for a coffee for general or non-specific information can sound like you’re very junior and looking for an easy line into someone’s job file.

2 - “Seeking advice” ….on what? (on how to be better at a job, find accreditation, find a mentor, etc.?) These two words are often listed in requests for meeting but the meaning is vague.
FYI - “advice” vs. “advise” is a very common mistake in an email!

3 - Are there individuals in your industry you admire? Can you reach out to them? Can you tell them why you admire them and what their advice on those particular skills would mean to you?

4 - Are you targeting a specific industry for which you want to *whatever it is you do*? For example, a writer can write for technical, for government, for TV. Picking the industry to which you want to apply your talents would help. Your contacts might be able to least find folks who might know folks.

And, finally, don’t be lazy. Don’t call in personal favours for things you could first deal with by working with your mentor and/or plumbing the websites, meetings and events of related associations and organizations. We know how busy folks are - you can’t expect them to help you with this refining of your ask - spend some time thinking about it before sending the first email request for help.

Remember, good networkers you can call on for connections are Not headhunters, career counselors or matchmakers. You need to show the efforts you’re making on your own and be respectful everyone’s time. You are your best champion. Don’t push the responsibility into someone else’s hands unless you’re paying them (and even then!).

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