Don’t Turn Off Those Who Can Help

I had lunch with a friend recently – a talented marketing manager who is not loving her job in a professional services firm.

We had only just sat down when she started moaning and groaning. “Where is my ideal job Kate? Tell me what I should do?”

Don’t Turn Off Those Who Can Help image shutterstock 119463514 300x200Having Coffee photo from ShutterstockOkay, I realize I am a career coach but we were having lunch – as friends. Besides, my friend’s career is her responsibility. I can advise, I can workshop strategy but I cannot wave a magic wand and produce her perfect job. As we chatted, it became apparent that all her energy was going on disliking her current role. She wasn’t networking, going to events that inspired her (work and non-work related) or getting in touch with key contacts. However, before she did anything I advised her to change her pitch.

I am all for getting out there and broadcasting you’re on the hunt for a new role but there is definitely a right way to engage others in your campaign and a wrong way.

Your personal brand should say, ‘up for a new challenge’ not ‘desperate to escape’. It’s never too late to re-think your approach.

Hold the emotion

Even if you hate your job, try to stay as positive as you can when discussing your desire to look for something new. If you are talking to friends and loved ones, then the chances are they have heard it all before and will start to tune you out if they are asked to endure yet another rendition of how awful the boss is or how sad the salary or unchallenging the work. For non-family, hearing a rant is definitely a big turn off. Who wants to introduce someone like that to his or her employer or network? Focus on what you want to move to rather than escape from.

Ask people for something they can ‘yes’ to

Definitely do not make others responsible for your next career move. Rather than ask anyone if they can help find you a job, simply ask people to keep you in mind if they hear of a job opening in your sector or within their organization. Some employers pay referral fees to staff members who introduce candidates who are eventually hired so you could be helping someone earn some extra cash. However, be low key. Don’t sound desperate. People don’t like saying “no” so make it easy for others to say “yes”. It is easy to say “yes, happy to keep an ear out and let you know if I hear anything.”

Conversations can surprise

If it feels right, you could take things further and ask an industry contact for his or her take on where they see the employment market moving in the sector you both work in. Do they know the current demand for your skill set? Just don’t ask them if they know of any jobs going right this second. Try not to crowd the conversation exclusively with your needs or make it all about you. By keeping the conversation going, the other person has time to think. Maybe some bit of useful information relating to a job opportunity will come to mind.

Perfect a laid back pitch

Staying with the need to sound calm and in control, develop your pitch before you start talking to people. Why are you looking for a job right now? What are you going to say? It could be that the company is moving in a new direction and while you wish the team all the best, it is not the direction you want to move in. Or your manager is leaving and you enjoyed working with him/her so much that you stayed at the organization longer than you had planned so now is a good time to take an unhurried look at what else is out there. Or you are not using a qualification you spent time and money gaining. Keep it short though. If you rabbit on and on you will sound defensive and like you are anything but laid back or leaving for the reason you just outlined.

Be specific

It is hard for people to connect you to news they might hear about a job opening if you don’t help the memory process by being specific about what you are looking for. I’ve always found that saying, “I’ll do anything” is more likely to result in you being out of sight and out of mind – permanently.


Kate Southam has been giving people advice on careers for 13 years. She has been the editor of a career website, author of a syndicated newspaper column and remains a regular blogger. She also continues to coach individuals as well as provide commentary on careers and workplace issues to TV, radio and magazines. Kate is also a communications consultant advising businesses. Follow Kate on Twitter @KateSoutham.

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