Asking for help during a job search is a two-way street. You need to be specific about what you are looking for, and you need to make sure that the person you are requesting assistance from can actually help you. I’ve found that most people will help someone if they are able to and the request is specific.
Unfortunately many people forget the basics in a job search when asking others for help.
I am exposed to hiring managers and job seekers on a daily basis, so I receive frequent requests to help someone -- a former colleague, a current colleague or someone in one of my social networks -- with a job search. However I have yet to receive a request that was truly specific and where the requestor had done some background research on me and my potential ability to assist them. Do some basic research before asking someone for help, such as checking their LinkedIn public profile.
The requests I receive are typically generic:
• “If you know anyone who could use my skills, have them contact me.” No resume attached and the person assumed I would find their profile online.
• “Resume attached. Know anyone who has a job?”
• “A colleague told me you could help me with my job search. Can you?”
Or better yet, just a resume attachment with no comment!
If this is how you prepare and request information from someone you know, how are you going to prepare for an interview?
This also uncovers the deeper issue that the person probably hasn't done the important preparation for their job search to determine their accomplishments, their skills, and more importantly, what kind of position they are seeking.
Job searches are filled with fright and uncertainty -- why would anyone want to go through in-depth soul searching, resume writing, networking and job applications, to discover what you really want to do with your life? And yet it’s only through this kind of in-depth inquiry, plan development, and perseverance, that you get to the position you truly want.
Once you have identified your job search goals and strategies, THEN it's time to ask for help. And remember, be specific.
Do you know someone who is a really good writer? Ask them to proofread your resume, not tell you if it's good or not, but just proofread it.
Do you know someone who is in a similar position to the one you are interested in pursuing? Ask for 15 minutes of their time to ask three key questions about the position.
Does someone in your network work at a company that you are interested in working for? Ask for a few minutes of their time to ask three key questions about the company.
And finally remember to thank them for their time. People want to help but they also want to be appreciated for the help they have provided.