As you begin interacting with people on social media during your job search, becoming a valuable source of information to them, you grow what’s called social equity. Social equity is like having money in the relationship bank. You keep depositing to that bank every time you do a good deed, such as retweeting, commenting on blogs, or helping someone make a valuable connection on Facebook.
After you have enough relationship money, and only once in a while, you can make a withdrawal (in other words, you can ask your network to return the favor). Who knows when you may need to ask for an introduction or request a referral so your résumé gets to the top of the pile.
A common mistake people make is asking for help without building up any social equity. A client who rarely used LinkedIn when he was working made a classic mistake. His profile wasn’t complete. Then he got laid off and e-mailed everyone in his network asking for help with a generic résumé attached. Not surprisingly, no one jumped to his aid.
In contrast, many successful job seekers have been enabled to succeed through the generous help of their networks. The difference? The successful job seekers built up strong relationships over many months before making a social-equity withdrawal in the form of asking for assistance.
The trick to asking your network for help is to never appear desperate or needy. If you’re looking for general information about a company or an industry, sending out an unfocused, untargeted message is appropriate.
However, if you’re specifically asking people to step up and pass on your résumé or any other thing that would put their neck on the line, then ask on a one-on-one basis. Never send a mass e-mail to your contacts, asking whether “anyone” can pass on your résumé because you have nothing else to go on. Doing so may be perceived as offensive.
Many people have been introduced to the person who hired them because they asked their network for help. One blog reader simply changed his LinkedIn headline to say, “Recently Unemployed.” In a day, someone in his network made an introduction that got him hired two weeks later.
This client was a very outgoing fellow who never hesitated to help people in his network and who spent years adding value. And frankly, he also got pretty lucky. Don’t expect this to happen to you — but if it does, don’t be surprised either!
Here are some effective ways you can ask your network for help.
Send mass e-mail updates to your connections every once in a while. First, make sure you BCC people on the e-mail addresses so people aren’t receiving the e-mail addresses of everyone else in your network. Also, if you haven’t e-mailed these people in a while, you better build some equity first by giving them an update about your life and asking about theirs.
Always be very specific about what you need people to do for you. Never say, “I just got laid off; does anyone know of any jobs out there?” Instead, say, “I’m looking for my next career opportunity, and I’m very passionate about optimizing supply-chain processes. Do you have connections at an import/export firm in town that I can call on for advice?”
Make your mass messages (think e-mail blasts, discussions on a LinkedIn Group, or Facebook Timeline posts) positive and undemanding. These messages aren’t the place to ask people to stick their neck out for you. Use large groups of people for what they’re good at: general info and social support. Ask about industry trends, cool companies to look out for, what skills you need to master, advice, and so forth.
Ask for more specific help in one-on-one interactions. For example, you may ask for someone to pass on your résumé, give you the name of the hiring manager associated with a specific job opening, or even just have informal conversations about an industry.
This is where LinkedIn InMails, Twitter DMs, Facebook messages, and personal e-mails — all of which are forms of direct, one-on-one contact — come in. You’re calling in a favor, so find a way to make it easy and rewarding for someone to help you.
For the most part, people really do want to help you. Being helpful makes people feel good, especially if they can make a difference and their efforts are properly appreciated. If someone lends you a hand, always tell him exactly what his help has done for you by sending a short thank-you note.