Arianna Huffington sets aside time each Friday to address friends’ and strangers’ requests for help or advice. She can’t possibly grant every favor that lands in her inbox, so instead she chooses two per week. I’m guessing she doesn’t pick the first two, or the two that are the most elegantly written. She chooses two that are specific and manageable to complete.
When you’re asking a busy person to do you a favor – help you find your next job, for example – you want to be as prescriptive as possible. Give them an ask that is 85% of the way there. Because let’s face it: Your network is much more inclined to help you if you make it easy for them.
What do I mean by an ask that’s 85% done? Follow these 5 steps:
1. Decide whether you’re asking for counseling or connections. If you’ve just been laid off, chances are you’re a bit shell-shocked and potentially looking for advice on how to present yourself to the world. You may want career advice, help editing your resume or LinkedIn profile, inspiration on which companies to pursue, etc.
Get all this stuff figured out before you ask for connections, and don’t ask someone outside of your BFF, partner or fairy godmother to do both. It’s a heavy lift.
Think about who in your network is good for the counselor role, including career coaches and resume writers who are paid for their services. There are many well-established and inexpensive companies that can help you overhaul your resume or ensure employers can find you on LinkedIn.
Once you have your story down, then you’re ready to ask for introductions.
2. Talk to me like a lawyer, not a genie. When you’re working with an attorney with a high hourly rate, you want to make sure every minute counts, right? You’re asking only the most essential and concise questions. Approach networking requests in the same way. Especially if you’re looking to make a career pivot, return to Step 1. It’s not helpful to describe your dream job or 3 possible paths you could pursue. This shifts the burden to them.
Instead, describe your ideal employer avatar in 30 seconds of less, e.g. I’m targeting growth marketing or customer acquisition roles at telemedicine/patient education companies. People tend to get long-winded in emails, so use the 5-sentence rule or pretend you’re at a speed networking event. It’s also imperative to have a short list of companies that you’re interested in, which can help your network quickly zero in on who they know. This short list, like college applications, should be comprised mostly of companies that are realistic and attainable based on your job history.
3. Write your own pitch. Here’s a baller move. Once someone offers to make an introduction, write ONE quick paragraph highlighting your most relevant skills. Then they don’t need to think about how to position you. A couple quick edits or personal touches and it’s out the door, like magic.
4. Return the favor. It’s the right thing to do. Go above and beyond the typical “And how can I help you?” which leaves most people cold. Instead offer ideas on where you can provide value. Lots of times, a quick scan of their social feeds will reveal what they’re into or where they need help. Think in terms of content, engagement, expertise or connections. Comment/share their posts, attend their webinars, introduce them to prospective clients, promote their hiring needs, etc.
If they do a lot of work on your behalf, land you an interview or a job, consider sending them a handwritten thank you or token of appreciation. Classy.
5. Update your network. Good things take time. Send progress updates to let your network know about new consulting work or professional development projects you’ve taken on. About once a month feels like the right frequency to keep you top-of-mind. And of course when you do land a job, send out an update email to acknowledge everyone for their help along the way. You can duplicate this in a LinkedIn announcement, but your network deserves a personalized note.
Follow these 5 steps and you will dramatically improve your networking game and ensure you don’t burn out your favor bank.
What have you done to endear yourself to your network? Get in on this conversation below.