how to tell your network you’re looking for a job

A reader writes:

I recently just got laid off from work and I’m back on the market looking for jobs. I’ve seen other colleagues/friends/peers send out mass emails to notify their network and request assistance in looking for jobs. Is this a good idea or bad idea?

You definitely want to let people know what you’re looking for, and that you’re looking. You never know who in your network might know about an opening that you’d be perfect for, and your chances of being considered increase when you have someone connected to the company or job saying, “Hey, you should really consider Jane, because ___.” So make the most of your existing connections, plus Facebook, MyLife, LinkedIn, Twitter — they all can be useful when you’re looking for a job.

As for the mechanics of how to do this … You could send out a mass email, sure. And realistically, if that’s the only way you’re going to get it done, then do that, because it’s way better than doing nothing at all. But it’s even more effective if you send individual emails to people, as opposed to one group email. This is because people are a lot more inclined to help when they feel like you’re reaching out to them individually. Think about how you feel in similar shoes: If you get a mass email from a friend asking a bunch of people to, say, donate to a charity she’s supporting, you may or may not spend time thinking about it. But if that friend reaches out to you personally, you’re going to feel more responsible for really thinking over the request and maybe acting on it. When people see that they’re one of many people being asked, there’s a diffusion of responsibility, a feeling that others will be taking care of this. The urgency is lowered with mass emails, so if you can, do individual ones.

As for what to say in these emails, make sure that you explain the type of job you’re looking for, and then directly ask for what you’d like them to do. And don’t just say “let me know if you hear of anything” because many people never pay attention to job openings around them. Instead, be more specific and direct:  Tell them to let you know if they hear of anything, yes, but also ask them to think about whether they know anyone might be helpful for you to talk with, and be sure to explain that you’d be interested in connecting with people in their networks even if there’s not a suitable opening right this very moment.

Oh, don’t forget to attach your resume to make it easy for them to forward around — people sometimes feel like that’s too forward, but it’s not.

And remember that there’s no shame in doing this; it’s actually very common, and most people are glad to help if they can.

What other advice do people have?

{ 33 comments… read them below }

  1. The Knitter*

    Try posting on Facebook that you’re looking for a job. My sister was called out of the blue by one of her friends to see if she was interested in interviewing for an entry level web design job. She interviews on Monday.

  2. $.02*

    Someone recently requested me on LinkedIn, I accepted because I knew her from college. Fast forward, two weeks later she sent me an email asking if I knew any openings. I will consider her but it rubs me the wrong way, she could have just said this in the beginning. It comes off as sneaky or trying to use me just for the job. It’s always good to keep in touch with people, you never know when you are going to need help.

    1. Kelly O*

      It might also be that she just got let go, or things just changed. Believe me, I’ve been the “victim” of bad timing before, and it can be really embarrassing.

      I guess I try to not always assume the worst. The realist in me sees where you’re coming from, but the optimist wants to at least initially believe it was some seriously bad timing.

      And on the OP – the harder thing to do I think is put out the word you’re looking when you’re still employed, and would like to stay employed until you find said new position. Especially when your work and social circles overlap a wee bit.

      1. RWPoorman*

        .02, or it could be that when your friend was setting up their Linedin account that she chose the option for Linkedin to access their address book and they send out a mass email to everyone. I know for myself that just last week I did this on my account, (which I’ve had for over a year), accidentally and had to slap my head. Never meant for that to happen. Sometimes you want to network but you may not want to cast your net so far.

      2. Ray*

        Also, Linkedin has a strong professional networking theme. It is not like facebook, so there is some transparency from the get-go. Don’t take it personally. She is being diligent and using whatever resources she has available. See it as a positive.

    2. Fooaddict*

      I agree with you. I’d rather have someone contact me and be straight forward about it, rather than giving me the impression that they wanted to be friends with me etc. I just experience this twice this month. I’m very happy to help as I know how hard it is to find a job, but I don’t like to be used, as in they talk to me only during the application or interview process, and once they know that it’s a no go, they just disappear on me.

      1. Harry*

        I don’t understand the beef. To ‘connect’ on Linkedin is just that, to connect. Not to be BFF’s with you. Whether they want to connect with me to catch up or to ask about a job lead will not change my impression of them as a suitable candidate for any openings.

        I am sure you never asked anyone about job openings you are interested in.

        1. JT*

          LinkedIn connections are about connecting for work reasons. It’s not “friending.” We can be friends with some people on LinkedIn, but it’s not the same.

        2. $.02*

          I guess my main point is don’t be passive aggressive, just say what you need. I know is sounds better to connect first then ask for a job, but it’s okay to just ask.

          1. Anonymous*

            I didn’t see that as passive aggressive at all. Sending the connection first, then contacting once it’s accepted seems much better to me then only sending a message with no invitation to connect. As other commentors have said, LinkedIn is meant to connect with others who could possibily assist you in career networking, not who you want to be best friends with.

          2. Liz*

            She did “just ask” when she contacted you for networking purposes. You agreed to network, so then she asked for word of any openings. That’s pretty normal stuff.

            It sounds as if maybe you’re not comfortable with networking, outside of close friends and family, and you put everyone else in a “You’re nothing but a beggar so don’t try to pretend there’s anything more to it” box. That’s totally legitimate, but it isn’t the other woman’s fault for not knowing your boundaries. Most people have more of a continuum rather than an either/or system for requests.

            Here, the job seeker followed accepted practices and she definitely made an attempt to be respectful of boundaries in not just asking for postings point blank without first knowing you’d be receptive. It doesn’t seem fair to fault her for not knowing you’d prefer her to ask immediately because you don’t want to pretend there’s anything else to the relationship, like that perhaps she could do something for you or that a low-key contact is worth cultivating for its own sake.

            Fwiw, I think that might be why several people have noticed and commented rather than agreeing.

            1. anon*

              I think the issue is that in order to ask something of someone, it helps to have a warm relationship with them first. It helps if you’ve been friendly in the past or if you kept in touch or provided them with a favor too. If your contact with a person went cold over the years from lack of effort, there is always the potential for the other person to feel used when you ask them for something later on down the road.

      2. Vicki*

        What Harry said. A connection in LinkedIn should not give the impression that someone “wants to be friends” with you. It’s a professional connection. Don’t read too much into it.

    3. Piper*

      I don’t know. From a job seeker’s perspective and as someone who uses LinkedIn, I just found a coworker (from my current job) who happened to get a new job in the city I’m moving to at a company that I’d love to work for. I sent her a connection request, but didn’t mention that I’d like to work for the company she’s working at. I felt like that would be a bit pushy and rude of me right off the bat. I was planning to send her a note later this week (a week and half after I sent the contact request). I’m definitely not trying to be sneaky at all! Just don’t want to come across as pushy or rude to her.

      1. Piper*

        Also, last I checked, LinkedIn wasn’t for connecting with “friends,” it’s for building your career network. I wouldn’t think someone who connected with me on LinkedIn wanted to be friends with me. I would think they thought I was a good professional resource or contact.

        1. Kelly O*

          I think it’s a little short-sighted to confine LinkedIn to a purely career network, or to say your Facebook account is purely social. In many cases, your network of friends, family, coworkers, and career contacts can intertwine. I have many friends as connections on LinkedIn; we’ve never worked together, but if I see something that fits one of my personal friends, you can bet I’ll pass it along, or try to put two other people together.

          That’s what intimidates some people about “NETWORKING” (I say it in big bold letters, because it gets that kind of emphasis) – there is no need to keep it this formal, schmancy sort of of thing. It can grow organically through the relationships you have, and the relationships you develop over time. Those are the people I think of first, not necessarily the ones who I’ve met formally and put in a “Career” box in my mind.

          1. Anonymous*

            I don’t think that the idea is that you ONLY add your career network, but the point of the site is career networking. I also connect with friends and family on LinkedIn because they provide links to other networks and contacts (just as you provide new networks and contacts to them).

            I think the point is that contacting someone via LinkedIn for career purposes is completely appropriate, as it’s a networking tool, compared to, say, writingon someones facebook wall asking if there were jobs available at their company.

            Since the person who posted the original comment said they were offended that someone they used to know added them on LinkedIn then immediately asked about job prospects rather then trying to catch up on their lives first, I think Piper’s comment was attempting to point out that LinkedIn is meant for career, not social, networking so this interaction shouldn’t have been offensive or considered innapropriate.

            1. Piper*

              Right, what Anonymous said is what I was trying to say. I’m not saying confine it to only that (I have friends as LinkedIn connections and coworkers a Facebook friends), but the way you use the two is totally different and I think to contact someone specifically about job-seeking and possible opportunities is completely appropriate. The two certainly aren’t silos with boundaries that can’t cross.

              However, I would have thought it a little weird to simply friend someone on Facebook and then hit them up for a job. But I do not think it’s weird to let your Facebook network know you’re looking and to contact people directly who may be able to help you.

      2. Piper*

        Aaaaand for what it’s worth, my old coworker just left my current company about a month ago, so I never really lost touch with her. But still, don’t want to be pushy!

      3. Dan Ruiz*

        That is exactly the approach eveyone I know that uses LinkedIn seems to employ. It doesn’t seem odd to me at all.


    4. Anonymous*

      To be fair, the intention of LinkedIn is for career networking. If it was something like facebook, which has a more social base, I can understand your annoyance, but as far as I can tell she’s just using LinkedIn for what it was intended for.

  3. Piper*

    Definitely update your LinkedIn profile and include in your headline that you are seeking a job. Basically make your headline “what you do” plus “seeking new opportunities.” This works like a charm. I’ve used it for successfully finding work in the past.

  4. Related Question*

    AAM and commenters: What are your thoughts on using your network to look for a job while you still have a job? Obviously, doig great work is a must. But how do you make it known to those at other organizations you work with that you’re open to new opportunities?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I wish I had good advice on this, but I think it comes down to “be discreet,” which I know isn’t that helpful. Maybe someone else will chime in?

      1. Anonymous*

        I’ll bite.

        I’ve been doing this myself, and it helps if you make quality conversation with your coworkers or people in other departments to see what they have been involved with and who they may be still in contact with. From that point you can try to build out your network.

        If your coworker talks about a field or job related to your interests outside the company, be direct and say that you want to get into greater detail about that over lunch. If you are worried that it may put you in a bad light, try to ask for some discretion of your coworker. When you do sit down and chat, be specific about what you want – I can’t stress this enough.

        To reply about the OP, be specific with your messages and do your homework. Saying “I’m looking because I just got laid off” won’t really get anybody thinking hard about what they can do for you. See above point about being specific.

  5. OP*

    My main concern was really that the mass email just seemed too generic and lack the personal touch that highlighted my relationship with each individual. I opted to go with individual emails in waves of 3 – 4 emails per day to various contacts. I also made a tracking sheet so I know when I sent the emails, to whom, leads generated from which contact, so forth and so on. I find that this will help ensure I don’t forget to follow up on any useful leads or update my network on the status of my job application. I know it’s a huge pet peeve to ask for assistance, get offered help, and then disappear as one of the commenters have already pointed out here.

    As for networking to look for a job while having a job, it wasn’t an option for me as it’s a real small community here and a lot of my contacts are people I meet from work. It would be hard to keep something like that from getting back to my employer. It would’ve been an awkward situation. It might be different if you’re in a booming metropolis.

    1. Anonymous*

      I may be misreading this, but I think the reason it rubs people the wrong way is that, when you just ask for something, you aren’t providing any value to the person you are reaching out to.

      If you start the conversation by how you can benefit them (think about how you write a successful cover letter – you talk about your Customer Value Proposition), it makes framing you into their lives easier, because your benefit has already been demonstrated.

      Start the emails by saying what you can do for them and see how that works for you.

      1. Rana*

        Hmm. I think that approach might be warranted if you’re asking someone specifically for a job that they have the ability to provide, but it would be a weird thing for me to do for most of the people in my network, who are not in a hiring position.

        When I’m networking, therefore, I’m not going to be sending out a version of my cover letter, but rather something more along the lines of asking my friends and colleagues to keep an eye out for opportunities that might be of interest to me. Given that I do the same for them, none of us need to spell out “what I can do for you” because “what I can do for you” is implied by the nature of our relationship.

        Here’s an example: I’m working on expanding my indexing and editing business, and so I’ve been trying to expand my network. With people I don’t know very well, I do what you suggest, because my contact process is a bit like interviewing, and a bit like sending a cover letter. But with my existing network? That would be very strange to do, especially since most of them don’t need my services… BUT! they might know someone else who does. People in that second group don’t need a direct incentive to help me; they help me because they are my friends.

  6. rodrigo proust*

    As a self-employed environmental geologist, I have not had to look for a ‘job’ per se in many years. However, in a previous life I found out that “asking for advise re: how to find a job or improve resume” was a much better approach than “asking for a job”. People are happy to give advise, but will avoid you if asked for a job.

  7. Colobird21*

    Can I put something on my profile that lets people know I’m looking? Most of my network are not close friends that I can just email… I want to just put some feelers out there and see if anything happens.

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