When we think of the term “career advice,” we usually consider it from the job seeker’s perspective. But career advice isn’t just for those seeking a new role; it also applies to those in a position to help. For her column this month, Mary Shirley talks about how you can help others get a leg up and offers do’s and don’ts for those looking for a change.
Humans are helpers by nature, but when a network contact reaches out to you for career assistance, it’s often a stressful thing. You may not know them all that well, particularly if you haven’t worked together before, and you may feel you can’t speak to their competency or character. Even when it’s someone you have worked with, you may feel too wrapped up in your own work to meaningfully help in their job search.
But even if you only have a few minutes, you can support your contacts and strengthen your career network. After all, you never know when you’ll be the one who needs help.
If you have five minutes:
- Review the person’s LinkedIn profile or resume if they’ve included it and find something complimentary to say about their experience and background so they feel encouraged and pumped up as a candidate.
- Agree that you’ll keep an eye out for suitable roles and pass on anything that they might be interested in.
- Ask a couple of clarifying questions about what they’re looking for to help you understand what to keep an eye out for and help them focus on their vision. These questions might include, are you open to relocation, do you want to stay in the same industry, what sorts of job titles would you consider?
- Hit up peers in your social networking groups and apps like Slack anonymously profiling the person and asking that they let you know if they are aware of an opportunity that fits the job seeker.
- Make introductions to compliance recruiters.
- Offer to send benchmarking survey data that you have access to. Here’s one from Barker Gilmore.
If you have 15 minutes:
- Offer to review or proof read their LinkedIn profile or resume and make suggestions that, in your view, would enhance the candidate’s marketability and demand for their resource.
- Consider who in your network might be a valuable contact and seek their permission to make an introduction (it’s a cardinal sin to force people to chat and corner a contact to do a favor and give up their time without checking first) to the job seeker.
- Offer them the opportunity to practice their elevator pitch with you and provide feedback on their first impression.
- Share some market trends you have observed through your own conversations with colleagues, recruiters and job posts on social media that might allow them to set expectations (e.g. some searches can take a year or so, it says nothing bad about you if you don’t get bites immediately) and tailor their application better.
- Suggest resources you have leaned on in the past when job hunting and found useful, for example, Amii Barnard-Bahn sharing negotiating tips on the Great Women in Compliance podcast.
- Write a recommendation on LinkedIn if you have worked together in some capacity before (it need not be full time work, maybe you sit on an advisory board together or spoke on a panel at a conference together) and are able to attest to their skills, knowledge and nature.
If you have 30 minutes:
- Offer an informational interview or networking chat.
- If they’ve applied for a job at your company, offer to share information about the culture of the company, how values and mission are lived and any helpful tips about what you have observed that the hiring manager prizes, as well as how your own hiring process went with the company.
- Share your best interview tips and how to stand out in the hiring process by email.
- Offer to share what you look for in cover letters and applications when you’re hiring.
- Offer to be a peer, mentor or sounding board as they’re going through the job hunting process and analyzing considerations at specific junctures of the hiring process.
- If you have your own platform such as a podcast, consider whether you might be able to interview the person or otherwise raise their profile.
Do’s and don’ts for job seekers
The standard advice of letting folks in your network know that you’re looking for a new gig is sound, and you definitely should do that. This helps spread your tentacles further, particularly for roles that aren’t advertised. Research has found that even weak ties in your career network can bear fruit in a job search. But here are other do’s and don’ts.
- Feel free to reach out to weaker connections, not just your professional inner circle. The latter feels more comfortable, but the former could help you more than you think — see the Forbes article above.
- Build your network before you need it. In networking sessions I tell folks that you should always try not to make your first contact with someone a request. It can be as simple as liking or otherwise interacting with their social media posts to build that relationship. I have had someone reach out to me after I spoke at a conference and tell me she loved it and then a little while later she reached out again with a speaking engagement opportunity. I was pretty busy at the time, but how could I say no to someone who had previously made me feel like a million dollars? I agreed to her request.
- Acknowledge anyone who has tried to help you. It is the height of rudeness for someone to accede to your request, extend kindness and then ignore that graciousness.
- Update those you reached out to when you have secured a new job. This is part of relationship-building. Thank each individual for their specific help, even if it was just cheering you on rather than directly offering you a job, and update them when you have a new role. Even a one or two sentence copy and paste notification will suffice.
- Don’t have outlandish expectations. It is entirely unreasonable for you to expect someone to put in a good word for you at their organization or another where they have standing when they don’t know you from a bar of soap. Ask for specific things they can reasonably do and don’t put them in an awkward position where they understandably have to reject your request because it’s kind of ridiculous and asking for way too much in light of the (non) relationship.
- Don’t take it personally if someone does not respond. You’re asking for a favor, you’re not entitled to another person’s time and help just because you asked. While the compliance world is particularly helpful, you never know what someone is going through or has on their plate at any one time. Be prepared for some requests to go unheeded.
- Don’t throw a tantrum and refuse to engage with a contact who does their best but isn’t able to magically conjure up a job interview for you at the company they work for or provide you with professional services for free. Even if your contact is the hiring manager, they don’t owe you anything just because you’re first degree connections on LinkedIn and you liked a few of their posts. Know that your behavior will either rule you out for future roles (and being associated with you at all) or confirm that you’re someone they want to continue going to bat for and/or consider for the future.
Send the elevator back down to others who reach out to you for help.