A lot of job seekers are caught between the seemingly-contradicting axioms of “finding a job is all about who you know” and “asking for help is a sign of weakness.” It’s as if they think the key to success in the industry is having connections who will drop opportunities in your lap without you ever having to make a peep. Sure, this does happen for some people in rare circumstances, but it’s the exception, not the rule. Most of us need to ask our contacts for help, whether we’re looking for introductions to new people or seeking referrals to open roles.
Asking for help can be scary! It’s easy to get trapped by your inner critic telling you that you’re unworthy of the favor you’re asking for, or that the person you’re reaching out to will be annoyed to hear from you. A lot of us buy into the negative self-talk -- that our networks pale in comparison to those of our friends, that our contacts won’t remember us, that asking for help is somehow simultaneously a sign of icky hustling and laughable vulnerability.
It’s time to silence that voice in your head. The truth is, plenty of people want to help their contacts. Not only does it feel good to pay it forward, but it’s a good way to stock up on owed favors. Plus, so many of us lose track of our contacts, so when one reaches out to ask for help, it’s a good revitalization of that relationship.
A good rule of thumb is this: If you’d be pleasantly surprised to hear from a particular contact, and you’d be willing to help them if they needed a favor, assume they are just as generous and kind-hearted as you are. It’s still possible they’ll say no – maybe they aren’t in a position to help you with this particular request, or they’re going through major life stuff and now’s not a good time, or they’re secretly a jerk. But let them be the one to make that decision. As long as you’re polite, straightforward, and professional, there’s no harm in reaching out. If they say no, it’s the same result as if you never asked – but they can only say yes if you’re bold enough to ask.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan