After I graduated from University in 2004, I had a very difficult time finding a job. I had completed a degree that I was interested in, but not in a field that I wanted to work in… and so I didn’t have any marketable skills – at least not for the types of jobs I was looking for.
A few months later, I figured some more education – the right kind – would help, and applied to Certificate Program in Human Resources Management. I was quickly accepted and started in May 2005.
The program was full of diverse students – undergraduate and certificate level, and therefore some of my classmates were professionals who were going back to school for more training.
During one class, I was chatting with another student, and told her my story – graduated from university, couldn’t find a job, enrolled in this program, and now I’m looking for work.
A woman I had spoken to a few times in class – Rana – overheard the conversation and interrupted with “I think my department is hiring, send me your resume”, and handed me her email address on a piece of paper. She then turned around and continued what she was doing.
I was very pleasantly surprised and sent Rana my resume that night. Shortly after, someone called me for an interview. They hired me, and just like that, I started my career… first as a receptionist, then as a program coordinator and 13 years later, I’ve been working in L&D in some amazing organizations in Canada and abroad.
I will always remember Rana for this.
Many people are embarrassed, shy or hesitant to share that they’re looking for a job, or to accept help from others in doing so – however, 80% of jobs are found through a connection, not by applying into the black-hole of online applications, as career expert Liz Ryan so eloquently puts it.
What do you want to do? What are your skills? What value can you add? Where do you want to work? Before you start telling people, answer all of these questions for yourself, and then write a short story about it. Once you’ve written it, practice it with someone and get their thoughts… the story needs to be easy to understand and it also needs to make sense.
***Tip:The story should highlight what you do, the value you bring and what you’re looking for next.
Here’s a sample:
“I’ve been working in marketing for 10 years and am looking to move into a new industry. I spent the last 3 years at an agency developing social media strategies for a few key accounts…large food & beverage company, Tech Company and a startup looking to expand their reach…and my clients have been really happy with the results. In one case, me and my team grew an engaged following from a couple hundred to several thousand, and sales grew over time. I’m ready to move on to an internal marketing role at a national or global company, to spend time building their online brand.”
Asking for help can be hard, and so this is the difficult part for some people. Start with friends and family, and also expand to your broader network. Each time you tell your story, it will get easier. There’s no shame in doing so – everyone’s had help from someone – it’s impossible to succeed without it.
In person, the topic of work inevitably comes up in different situations – social events, at a family dinner and even places like the hair salon or with your bank teller… really anywhere that you interact with people, which makes it easy enough to share the story that you’ve practiced.
Reaching out to your network via email is another way to connect with people who may be able to help you. Instead of reaching out with a generic email, email individuals and share your situation.
Some people will be willing to help and some won’t. Don’t worry about those who won’t, and focus on those who will!
***Tip: Make sure you end by asking for the specific type of help you need. Do they know someone at the companies you’re targeting? Do they work there? Do you need an introduction? Whatever it is, be clear.
This last tip is simple. Express your gratitude, send thank you emails, keep them posted with your career updates periodically, and always remember them.
Most importantly, do the same for others.
I will always remember Rana and it’s because of her that I have my career. If I hadn’t shared that I was looking for job, and if she hadn’t overheard my conversation, I may not be where I am today. And I make it a priority to help others with the same.
The hardest part of telling everyone you know that you’re looking for a job is getting over the fear. Remind yourself that everyone – absolutely everyone – has received help in some way throughout their career, and there’s no shame in asking for the same.
Making sure you have your story straight and sharing it with everyone you know will increase your chances of finding a job when you’re looking. Most people will want to support you, but if you don’t tell them what you need, they won’t know how.
Last, show your gratitude by never forgetting those who have helped you and doing the same for others – it will be well worth it!