Can You Help Me?

In 1951, famed journalist Edward R. Murrow launched a radio program called This I Believe. The idea was to have people, both famous and not, write and then read essays about what they believed in. NPR revised the idea in the mid-2000’s. I tell you this because if I had the opportunity to write such an essay I would write about the incredible ability of people to step in when others need help. I am constantly amazed and inspired by the generosity of humankind.

You can see this generosity in your job search. You just need to utter the magic words, “can you help me?” It is common for the networking-novice to ask, “Do you know anyone who is hiring?” The answer is inevitably, “No, sorry,” and that’s the end of the conversation. But, when you instead ask for help, people will. Asking for help can start a conversation that might lead you to your next job.

Is it really that simple? No, it’s not. When you ask, “can you help me?” the response will probably be, “I’m happy to if I can, what do you need?” If you follow that with, “Do you know anybody who’s hiring?” you’ll be right back where you started.

So how does that conversation go? Try this:

You: “Hi, Bob, Steve Jones said that you might be able to help me.”

Bob: “I will if I can. What can I do for you?”

You: “I recently lost my job and I’m meeting with other professionals like you to expand my network.”

Bob: “I’m sorry but I don’t know anyone who is hiring …”

You: “No, no, no, I ‘m not asking you for a job. I wouldn’t put you on the spot like that. I’d just like 10-15 minutes to tell you about my background, and then maybe you can suggest a few people you know who might be willing to do the same thing. As I connect with more people, eventually one of them will be hiring.

Bob: “Okay, tell me your story.”

Trust me, I’ve had this conversation more times than I want to admit, and people will help.

If, at the end of the conversation the response is, “I’d love to help, I just don’t know anyone that I think can help you,” then you pull out your target list and say, “I understand, maybe this will help. Here is a list of 20 companies that I would like to know more about. By any chance do you know anyone that works at one of these companies?”

People can be amazingly generous and helpful. You just have to ask for their help. Now, if you were to write an essay for This I Believe, what would you write about? Wow, that would make a great interview question …

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.