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“Hey, would you be willing to …” For job seekers, there are a million ways to finish this sentence: “… provide a referral?” “… serve as a reference?” “… take a look at my resume?”
The point is that job hunting isn’t a solo endeavor. Almost everyone who’s searched for a new position and found success has at least a few friends, family members, colleagues or even near-strangers to thank.
But what happens when you’re on the other end of this request, and one of your contacts asks for your help? Chances are you’ll be happy to lend a hand. But don’t just jump in head first. If you take the wrong approach, you can actually do more harm than good.
Here’s how to help out the right way:
Offer unbiased feedback. If your friend asks your thoughts on her resume or job search approach, let her know upfront that you plan to offer the unvarnished truth. After all, you won’t really be helping if you’re not honest. That being said, you should be tactful and considerate when providing your critique.
Be a sounding board. A good way to show your support is to serve as a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on. Searching for a job can be frustrating, and sometimes having someone to vent to is what’s needed most.
Make connections. We all know the power of networking. So, help your contact expand his network by tapping your own. You might introduce him to someone you know in his target industry — even hiring managers, if possible. Use LinkedIn — or a good old-fashioned email — to bring the two people together.
Put in a good word. Offer to write a recommendation or a skills endorsement on LinkedIn. You can also volunteer to serve as a reference. None of these tasks takes much time, and any one of them can make a huge difference to your friend’s chances of success.
Understand what the person’s looking for. If your contact asks for job leads, be sure you understand her job-search goals. That means knowing more than what type of position she’s hoping to land. You need to dig deeper. How would your friend describe her ideal employer? What level of responsibility does she seek? Is she willing to commute a long distance? Would she relocate for the right opportunity?
Avoid information overload. You’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for job postings that your friend might be interested in. But be selective in what you pass along. Otherwise, you’ll simply be wasting your contact’s time.
Realize some of your advice will fall on deaf ears. And that’s OK. Your friend may have a very good reason for ignoring your guidance — remember, you don’t know every detail of his situation. Don’t pressure him to take your advice or be offended if he doesn’t.
Don’t flake. If you offer to pass along your friend’s resume or review hercover letter, be sure to follow through. And do so quickly. Along those lines, don’t volunteer to help unless you know you’ll have the time and resources to actually do so.
Are you ready to help?
When a job seeker asks for your help, keep in mind that you don’t have to move heaven and earth to make a difference. A few minutes of your time may be all that’s required. After all, it’s often the little things that mean the most, especially in tough times.