Don’t Go It Alone: How to Ask for Help During Your Job Search

Most people wouldn’t wish their job search experiences on their worst enemy. The process can bring up old insecurities and new anxieties, punctuated with long stretches of uncertainty and rough periods of doubt. But it doesn’t have to be such a slog. Your job search can go much quicker if you reach out and ask for help from those who’ve been through it before. You may even find yourself surprised by how willing and enthusiastic people are to lend a hand.

Asking gives you access to the hidden job market

Why is it so important to ask for help in your job search? The answer is simple: there’s a hidden job market you can’t access by applying for jobs cold. Only through networking and referrals can you get access to the widest array of opportunities. Tons of top-notch positions are never posted on job boards, and up to 80 percent of jobs are never formally posted.

Most professionals are happy to help

There is a hurdle, though: working up the confidence to ask and knowing the appropriate way to do it. Going out on a limb to see if someone in your network can assist you proves a bit unnerving for many job seekers. You may ask yourself, “What if I come off as desperate?”

Luckily, there’s a right way to ask without imposing. No one’s career exists in a vacuum, and your professional peers know that. You can be certain that everyone you see excelling in their careers had some help along the way.

Who (and how) to ask for help

It won’t work to reach out to your contacts with an email simply saying you’d like help with your job search. A vague ask leaves you dangerously close to imposition territory. That’s because you’re essentially asking the person to do the mental work to figure out what type of job you want and what you need to do to get there. Instead, be as specific as possible with your request. Remember to target your ask based on their expertise, as well as your own history and relationship with this person.

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You can ask for help in your job search from former supervisors and colleagues with whom you maintain a positive relationship. You might also want to contact people who work at the company where you’d like to be, or someone with your desired job title that might know the ropes from their own job search experiences. Once you identify someone who you’d like to contact, decide what you’re specifically requesting. Would an informational interview help? Or do you want the person to forward your resume to their manager? It’s easier to say yes when the question is clear.

Etiquette when asking for job search help

Even in the 21st century, manners can go a long way. Here are the basic building blocks to use when crafting an email or LinkedIn direct message to your contact:

  1. Be brief.
  2. Make your request with a tone that’s warm, honest, and clear.
  3. Thank them for their time.

This strategy also works in person when you meet someone at a networking event. Take a page out of Emily Post’s book and avoid networking don’ts like sending a group email blast asking for help. It’s better to make genuine contact with one person than contact that rings insincere with lots of people.