Sometimes with job hunting, it’s as simple (and as complicated) as asking.
Asking for help with editing your cover letter. Asking a former colleague for a recommendation. Asking a stranger in the field you want to enter for an information interview. Asking a friend if they know of any openings in that great new place where they work.
Because the fact is, no matter how it might not seem like it sometimes, you’re not in this alone.
I will be writing a lot more about your personal network in the near future. But for now, the important point is that you can get a lot just by asking for it, and you won’t get anything if you don’t try.
Starting to ask
Much easier said than done, I know. All kinds of fears can crop up when you start thinking about asking other people for help. Do you seem weak by asking? Does it seem like you don’t know what you’re doing? How do you know the right thing to ask?
I know this pain personally. I’m a severe introvert who has always thought that to do something well, I had to do it myself. Asking has always been hard for me.
As with most things in life, the antidote for these fears is just starting. One way to start would be to write out a list of people you know who have a connection to the field you want to move up in, or want to break into. Depending on how well you know them, reach out by email, or social media, or phone. And say something like, “I would enjoy talking with you about where I am right now and pick your brain.”
People love to be considered experts, and most people love to give advice. So this isn’t a big ask. It’s just a conversation between acquaintances or friends.
With that sort of thing under your belt, you might move into something more advanced. Asking your writer friend to help you edit your resume or cover letter. Asking a former co-worker for an introduction to someone you want to work with. See – that wasn’t so hard, was it?
You’re not alone
Too often, those fears I was talking about stop people before they even get started. But the truth is that no one gets ahead on their own. John McCain might have been a “maverick,” but like any successful person, he cultivated relationships, had mentors and friends who helped him get to the next level. And he did that too, for others. You’ve probably already done this yourself more times than you realize.
So give it a try. We’re all in this together. Ask!
I've been meaning to comment on this. All your posts are great, and this one really struck a chord with me. I feel like it took me years to learn to ask for what I wanted (I must have been an odd child or gotten some weird messages from my parents, because I wanted my mom to just know what I wanted without my asking); over the years, I've (mostly) gotten better at it. I often have to remind my husband to ask; I think that in our culture it's even harder for men. I also remind him to talk to people about whatever's going on — whether you're looking for a job, a place to live, a dentist, a contractor, etc., you just never know what will result from telling everyone you know. When I quit my job at the end of last year to be a consultant, that's how I ended up getting a large percentage of my clients: I'd mentioned what I was doing to colleagues (who were also friends), and they sent work my way before I even started looking!
I like this. Related message is "tell everyone you meet and most people you don't that you're looking for a job". A lot of times people are embarrassed to openly talk about being "out of work" or they are too timid to get into an impromptu conversation about looking for work because they might not have a perfectly polished elevator speech ready for this exact circumstance. Forget that. TELL EVERYONE you're looking for work. You never know who might have some good advice or who might be hiring or who might know someone who can help you. If people don't know, they cannot help.