The Best Way to Really Help a Job Seeker: 1 Right Answer to 1 Wrong Question

How to really help a job seekerDo you know someone who is looking for a job? Have you recently asked someone “how is your job search going?” In this post I want to share ideas on how to really help a job seeker.

When I was a job seeker I was the only job seeker in my circles of influence. The only one in my neighborhood and my church and my friend group. People knew I was looking for a job, and they frequently asked how my job search was going. One lady would bring me printouts of openings every Sunday. Coincidentally, I had spent so much time on the job boards that every posting she brought me seemed too familiar.

None of those postings matched what I was looking, or qualified, for.

It wasn’t their fault that I couldn’t count any of them as helpful. Willing, yes, but not helpful. No one knew how to really help me in my job search. I didn’t know how to help them help me. Heck, I didn’t even know how to help myself!

They didn’t know how to really help a job seeker (me)!

I didn’t know how to really help a job seeker (myself, or any other job seeker)!

Fast forward a few years, I had written a very successful book (the first book on LinkedIn that wasn’t for recruiters), launched JibberJobber (the CRM for job seekers), written a dud of a book, and was a professional (read:paid) speaker flown around the U.S. to speak. When I got on the road to speak I had the beautiful opportunity to meet job seekers and learn their stories and their struggles.

I learned that across the country people were struggling with things I struggled with: loneliness, depression, and lack of knowledge about job search strategies and tactics. I also learned that people had friends and family and even acquaintances who all wanted to help them, but they didn’t know how… and the job seeker didn’t know how to help them help them.

It was on one of these trips that I figured out how I could help job seekers help their friends help them (I know, that’s a lot of helps). I came up with this almost a decade ago, and I’ve shared it on stage and in articles and on the radio and on podcasts many times. But I’ve never shared it with non-job seekers.

If you want to really help a job seeker: The right answer to the wrong question

First, let me share what I tell job seekers. Then I’ll restate it, but to you, who isn’t in a job search.

To job seekers I say that they have to believe that people want to help them. When people say “How is your job search going?” they really want to know if there is any way they can help you in your job search. But we, as job seekers, respond to that question with a “good” or a “it’s going okay” or sometimes we tell them the truth about how it’s not going well at all. None of these answers help others help us.

I tell them they can say “good” or “okay,” but they need to follow up with this:

“I’m looking for introductions to people who work at my target companies. Do you know anyone who works at Company A, Company B, or Company C?”

So you are answering their direct question, and you are asking them a simple yes or no question. If they know someone who works at any of those companies, you would follow-up with “Would you introduce me to that person?”

And that simple but brilliant response is how you help others help you in your job search.  Networking introductions, especially to people in one of your target companies, could be more valuable than even paying their rent or mortgage for the month!

Now, with that as a foundation, let me tell you how you can really help a job seeker.

Same concept, but instead of you waiting for them to respond that way (most people will never have heard that response before… so they’ll just answer “good” to your “how is your job search going” question), I want you to think about inserting these responses to their “good”:

“Cool. What are some of your target companies? I might know someone who works at one of them.”

“What roles are you applying to? I might know someone who you can talk to.”

“If you are interested in networking with any of my contacts, I’d be happy to make an introduction. What are the companies you are most interested in working in?”

Instead of waiting for them to ask you if you know anyone at their target company, you offer it. I suggest this because sometimes the job seeker is too heads-down applying online, or they don’t think anyone would make introductions to them, or they really don’t know how to do a job search.

Really Help a Job Seeker With this Follow up Question

Because of the lack of proper job search training, I would follow-up with this:

“I can introduce you to a friend of mine who works at Company A, but I’d like to know how it goes. I’d like you to do an informational interview with her, where you ask her about the organization, their needs, industry insight, as well as ask her for introductions to people in the department where you want to work. Have you done any of these informational interviews in your job search?”

You see, another epiphany I had while on the road was that informational interviews are the most important tactic that a job seeker should invest in. Here’s what I’ve said from stage:

“If I were in a job search right now, I’d spend 90% of my time on informational interviews.”

I’ve written and talked a lot about informational interviews… just search JibberJobber Informational Interview and you’ll find plenty of information on that.

As a job seeker I thought I didn’t have anything to offer other job seekers. I didn’t know how to help them. But one day I realized I had something more valuable than gold… I had contacts. And I could make introductions. When you do this, you are really helping your friends in their job search.

Good luck, and share this message far and wide. We need a lot more people actually helping in the job search, and this is how we can do it.