Making This Phone Call Could Change Your Career

Gail Belsky, job seeker

Over the last six weeks, I've consulted with four different experts about my career-reinvention journey-and they've all been very helpful. But I've avoided approaching the people who could probably help me the most: my professional contacts.

It's not logical. I'm blogging about my job quest for the whole world to read, but contacting people directly to say I'm looking for work feels awkward ... and embarrassing. Since I started writing this blog, however, I've gotten more calls and emails about freelance work than I have in months -- including some that have the potential of being long-term or even full-time. Each one originated from someone I've worked with in the past.

Of course, had I reached out to my network a while ago, I might already have a new job. Maybe I'd reach out now, if I knew what to say. I went back to the two career coaches (and AOL Jobs bloggers) who have helped me, Marty Nemko and J.T. O'Donnell, for their advice. They offered two very different approaches.

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1. Marty Nemko: Cast a wide net, and get straight to it.

The strategy: Make a list of as many people who like you as possible, even if you haven't talked to them in ages. Then, depending on what you think will be most comfortable for both of you, call, email, or arrange to meet face-to-face.

Words to say: "You might wonder why I'm calling. I've been an accountant for a long time, and have always gotten very good evaluations. But my boss just outsourced all of our jobs, so I'm looking for a new job. They say you should contact everyone you like, even distant ties. By any chance, might you know someone who might need a good accountant?"

The rationale: "Studies show that you're more likely to get a useful lead from a distant tie than from a close one because you probably have many more distant connections than close ties."

More: Creative Ways To Land The Interview

2. J.T. O'Donnell: Bring something to the party, instead of just taking.

The strategy: Make a list of people you want to contact, and think about an industry issue you've discussed before. Find a few recent stories about the topic, and then email each contact with links to the stories.

Words to say: "This article reminded me of our conversation about the problem with outsourcing jobs. I would love to catch up with you and hear what you are focused on in 2013."

Her rationale: "I don't think any job seeker likes to lead with, "I'm looking for work, can you help me? By initiating the conversation this way, you are providing some value, and easing into a conversation about their work. This will lead to questions about your work, which will enable you to share that you are actively seeking new opportunities."

How about you ... have you contacted people you know to ask them for job leads?

How did you do it?

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Get right to it. If the person has ever been in your position they'll understand and if they don't these are not really friends of yours in business.

February 12 2013 at 9:52 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Peg Rosen

I agree with approach number 1. I always feel a little put off when someone contacts me or calls me and is pretending to just be saying "hi" or, in this case, tipping me off to something interesting, and then they get to "by the way,...." at the middle or end of the conversation. I'm left feeling like, "Oh, and here I was thinking you actually wanted to do something nice or you actually want to catch up. But guess you just wanted something from me." Just be up front and ask me for something. It wastes less of my time and I appreciate the honesty. I think ploys are transparent to most and make you look a little smarmy.

February 12 2013 at 8:16 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Peg Rosen's comment
Gail Belsky

One way to think about is that you still have value to them, even though you're looking for help. It's not like you don't have ideas, or connections, that could help them with whatever they're doing. I agree that being disingenuous is icky and offputting, but "catching up" could be mutually beneficial if you're transparent about it.

February 14 2013 at 9:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Dear Jo Jo, sr
You might be right about some people, maybe even most, but there is someone in your network that cares about you. The question is, can they help, and if so, will their help / influence be enough to get you the job.

February 11 2013 at 4:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to m.pace's comment
Gail Belsky

I'd like to believe that people who think well of you (and they're the ones you'd be contacting) would want to help. And even if they can't hook you up with something or someone immediately, they may be able to share valuable info, or keep you in mind for down the road.

February 14 2013 at 9:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jo Jo, sr

People do not want this call and they do not want to help others get work. Following this article will just set you up for disappointment.

February 11 2013 at 1:55 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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