As we travelled across the country on our national book tour these past few weeks, two bits of advice that we’ve shared with you over the years stood out as being the most useful for professionals looking to make their job search:
- Ask for a reference, not a job
- In the interview, ask your future boss, “How do I help you get a gold star at the end of the year?”
In the Q&A and in our conversations with you individually after our talk, we heard time and again that these two tips were the most differentiated, and successful, for professionals in their job searches. So let’s re-visit them this Monday morning…
Ask for a reference, not a job
We all know how painful networking can be. When I asked attendees at our book signings “who enjoys networking?” typically only about 15% of hands went up. And that’s because networking can be awkward, intimidating, and anxiety-provoking.
So my advice is: don’t do that. Don’t do networking that makes you and the person you are speaking with feel uncomfortable.
Let’s look at the difference between bad and good networking.
Here’s how we typically approach the “networking call”, when we’ve phoned an old friend:
“Hi Cindy, it’s Bob, your old college buddy. Yeah, how are things going? That’s great. Say, Cindy, I’m going to be looking for a new position in the next couple months here and I was wondering — do you know of any jobs out there for me, or are there any jobs at your company for somebody like me?”
Now what does this type of networking do to Cindy? It puts her on the spot and it makes her feel uncomfortable.
She’s not an expert in the job search, and it’s unlikely that she knows where there are jobs out there for somebody like you. So now she is in the awkward position of having to tell you “no”.
And our friends and colleagues hate being put in the position where they have to tell us “no”. They actually do want to help, so when you ask for their help in a way that prevents them from being any help, it makes both of you feel bad.
Now let’s look at a better way to network:
“Hi Cindy, it’s Bob, your old college buddy. Yeah, how are things going? That’s great. Say, Cindy, I’m going to be looking for a new position in the next couple months here and I was wondering — when it gets to the appropriate time in my job search, would it be possible for me to use you as a reference?”
Well, how difficult is it for Cindy to say “yes” to this? It’s actually quite easy.
And with that, you’ve actually created a positive feeling. You’ve told Cindy that you value her opinion enough to consider using her as a reference.
And now that Cindy has had a positive interaction with you, she is much more likely to keep her ears perked up for news or information that might help you in your job search. Remember, you only to need to find one job to be fully employed so if you have dozens, or hundreds, of your contacts with their eyes and ears open for you, you’re more likely to find that position sooner rather than later.
When I was shaking hands and signing books across the country, I heard from dozens of you that this advice has really worked, in real life, in making their job search more successful and their networking more comfortable. So please use it in good health!
And the second bit of advice that really resonated with our audiences nationwide was:
In the interview, ask your future boss “how do I help you get a gold star at the end of the year?”
So often in interviews, we are focused on what the opportunity means to “me” — what will I get out of the job, what will I be doing, and how do I match up to the position?
But you have to remember that your future boss is also thinking what this role means for “me” — what will this person do for me and my team, how will this person help us achieve our goals, how will this person make me more successful?
If you think about it, how difficult was it for your future boss to get this position approved? Well, in these tough economic times, it was probably very difficult. To justify additional headcount in a still crummy economy, your future boss probably had to jump through hoops and hoops with Finance and HR to get permission to hire somebody new.
So when you show an empathy for, and interest in, their situation and their success, you’ll be like a breath of fresh air.
By asking how you can help your future boss get a gold star, you’re changing how you are viewed from being just another mouth to feed, to being somebody whose goals and motivations are aligned with theirs. You’re setting yourself apart as somebody who will balance their own needs with the needs of others. And you’re showing that you’re committed to making your boss successful.
And that is just exactly the type of person who gets hired in our present economic environment.
So thanks again folks for all the support on the road, and I really do hope you’ll put these two great bits of advice to work in making your job hunt more successful this week!
A reader wrote in this afternoon with this comment:
“First of all, let me say that both tips are excellent! I actually just tried the second one during a phone interview with an internal audit director and it really caught him off guard in the best sense possible. After taking a few seconds to gather his thoughts, he actually came out and said that it’s the first time in his career someone brought a question to the interview that went in the direction of what can a person do for the department rather than what can the department do for them. So, thanks a lot for the tip.”