Friday, April 9, 2010

Question Of The Week - How should I let my network know that I'm looking for work?






This week, a reader asked if he should use a direct email campaign for his job search.

While there are many career professionals who like this approach, I find it to be self defeating, risking more harm than good. Here's why ...

Read more ...

On alternate Fridays, I'm posting a job search question from one of our readers. This was a question posted in response to my posting on Linkedin Answers “Candidates - What's your most difficult job search question?”


M.S. shared a question about his own job search, and asked:

"What approach I should use in the messages I send? Is it best to be direct or indirect in the messages I send to business owners or executives? For the direct approach, I could say that I would love to hear about positions they might have where I could put my e-marketing skills to work. At the worst I will just find that there isn’t much of a response."

My thoughts and experiences are going to be different than those of most career coaches, outplacement professionals, recruiters, college placement offices, and "rules of thumb". Most of these sources will advise candidates to take a direct approach. Typical advice would be to craft an email, stating that you are in an active search mode, possibly attaching your resume, and asking for help or referrals.


While those approaches worked 9 years ago, when email was still fairly new, it's less effective today - and can cause you to damage relationships unknowingly. I'll sum up the points below by asking in reply - Do you think that spamming your contacts is a good idea? Will it generate the response rate that you want? Will spamming your network help or hurt your relationships?

There are a number of differences between today's job search environment and that of 10 years ago that cause a direct approach to be ineffective:
  • There are far more job seekers today: Not only are there more unemployed, but there are many passive job seekers also - as many as 60% of the workforce by some reports. Most of your competition spams their network - because "everyone" recommends it.
  • Your network is already inundated by email: The people you are trying to reach get hundreds of emails per day. They can't possibly read all of them, and can only respond to a small percentage. The people you want to reach have jobs to do.
  • Proliferation of spam: Spam today is more than just ads for Canadian pharmaceuticals, insurance, and penny stock tips. As our email boxes fill to overflowing, business professionals react more unfavorably to spam. resenting the time unsolicited emails take from their day.
  • Backlash against spam: Over-messaged recipients can get upset due to unsolicited emails and messages. As our inboxes overflow, we've gotten used to being asked for permission to message first, and quickly grow impatient with emails that don't provide us value. Those are the emails that get deleted, or worse ... sent to spam or replied with "Please remove".
  • iPod & Blackberry nation: As more professionals use smartphones as their primary email reader, especially for personal emails, attention span for non-urgent emails have shortened as our inboxes explode. If it's not valuable to us, we tend to delete first, ask questions later.
  • Sending blast emails demonstrates What's In it For Me (WIFM): Most of your readers won't find value in what you want, or to quote M.S. "I would love to hear about positions they might have where I could put my e-marketing skills to work."
  • "The Update email": This is the email we all get, often from people we barely know, or who are social network connections, that give us the whole history of their job search. Most recipients don't care. However, if you restructured the email to tell me about the problems you've been solving, how you are created value, or the value you are creating freelancing or at volunteer organizations - you have a much better chance of getting attention.

Fortunately. there are better alternatives. These can work as well for an accountant as a marketing person, from entry-level to executive. Use the power of social media in the way it was intended - to engage in discussions, rather than spam. Here's some ideas of how you can utilize your social network to engage in job search discussions:
  1. Create a newsletter or blog: Use a newsletter or blog to provide value to your readers, give them ideas, demonstrate the value you can provide by describing past projects and the problems you solved - show them WIFT (What's In it For Them - see http://recareered.blogspot.com/2010/03/job-seekers-tell-your-readers-wift.html).

  2. Use Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter Status: Use your social media status to start discussions of projects, rather than asking if your network knows who's hiring. Use your status as a megaphone to provide value, rather than spam.

  3. Discuss on Industry sites and forums: If you are a marketing person, find the top marketing forums, sites, social networks, and blogs. Contribute value by starting discussions, engaging in discussions ... if you've picked the right forums you reach your hiring managers and show the type of value you provide to a group ... and could provide to their company (see http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/12/why-use-social-branding.html).

  4. Send emails with links to discussions, blog posts, web sites, etc that provide value: If you want to use Direct email, use it to provide value and WIFT, rather than ask about openings.

  5. Create a website or online portfolio to show off your work: It's easy and inexpensive. There are a number of free alternatives, including Google Sites, Facebook, Blogger, Wordpress, and hundreds of inexpensive choices where you can easily post examples of your work, case studies, and the problems you've solved. Presenting your background in this way adds value to your network, because you're giving ideas while you promote your work (see http://recareered.blogspot.com/2008/06/how-online-portfolios-put-you-at-top-of.html).

  6. Don't burn your network: Rely on your network for high return information, rather than just asking what's on their website's job tab. Your network has a higher value of inside information, than just randomly asking if a contact knows of any openings. Your network's highest value is in Guerrilla Job Search tactics, to give you the inside information that allows you to understand company problems, so you can present yourself as the solution (see http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/11/guerrilla-job-search-tactics.html).
The beauty of this approach is that it can reach far more than just your network and by not directly asking for a job you provide value, encouraging more attention. This approach can be used to help change industries or job function, and can be used by active or passive job seekers (your employer won't have problems with your involvement in the industry - it makes your company look good as long as you don't give out company secrets).

The more you provide value, the less your messaging is viewed as spam, the fewer times the delete button is hit, and the more likely you'll be recruited as a great fit to fix problems just like the ones you described.

How can you use this approach to replace the spam you're sending?

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Related Articles:
Why Candidates Should Avoid The Ambush Informational Interview
You Don’t Have to be Shakespeare to Write a ResuBlog

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2 comments:

Patricia said...

This is excellent advice, especially for higher-level job-seekers. It states succinctly what I had thought and have been practicing. You can use your LinkedIn status to indicate that you are job searching. Telling your close friends and colleagues who will respond to anything you send is one thing, but just sending "spam email" to contacts merely fills their inboxes with more unread email.

Steve said...

Good advice, although I have to disagree that your network won't read the emails. It depends greatly on how well you know the person in your network. Yes, we all get tons of email a day, but those we read are the ones from the people we know. They also tend to be the ones we respond to as well. While you do have to be very careful with who you send to, I don't see any harm in sending a note to those members of your network that you are CLOSE to...