I hate asking anyone for help.
February 7, 2011 1:08 PM   Subscribe

Should I ask my Godfather for help?

I've recently moved back to the city I am originally from after many years away. I am having a difficult time finding a job and am getting very discouraged - as I cannot collect unemployment, I am also getting very desperate with regards to money, I have fully run through my savings and am going more and more into debt to just live so I need to get a job asap.

My Godfather is a very well-known businessman and philanthropist in my city. By well-known, I mean he ran for a very high public office on one of the two major party tickets several years back and he knows former presidents personally. He is not my official Godfather, his late wife, who died when I was young, was my Godmother, but he calls himself my Godfather. He is elderly but still quite active and healthy and still works. I have never asked him for anything, nor have I wanted to. I'm sure he gets asked for money and favors all the time and I was never interested in our relationship being like that. Our relationship now and since I was a teenager has consisted of us getting together every few months for lunch to catch up and discuss family/what's going on in our lives/ etc. When I lived out of town, I visited a few times a year and always met up with him when I was back. I am now in my thirties.

However, now I'm getting pretty desperate in my job search and I've wondered if I should ask him for help in making connections or networking. I DO NOT WANT MONEY FROM HIM. I met with him right after I moved back a few months ago and he knows I'm looking for a job and said I could use his name as a reference, which I have in the only two interviews I've had and it hasn't helped, though I think the people knew who he was. I have never made a big point of knowing him and don't generally mention it to people unless it comes up as I hate name-dropping. If it is relevant to the question, he did give me a VERY generous check at my wedding (many years ago).

I really hate the thought of having to ask him for anything but I am also getting desperate and I don't know what to do. Would it be tacky to ask him if he knows anyone that I could contact? If so, how would I phrase it so I don't come off as one of the no doubt many people who ask him for things? I don't even like asking this question on here because I was always determined never to ask him for anything so I would appreciate any input anyone may have, thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total)
However, now I'm getting pretty desperate in my job search and I've wondered if I should ask him for help in making connections or networking.

This is what networking is. Asking people you know to put you in touch with people they know. Absolutely do it. You are being foolish if you don't.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:10 PM on February 7, 2011 [27 favorites]

Dude. This is what friends and family are FOR ... helping friends and family. And you're not asking him for a handout. Yes, of course you should talk to him!
posted by cyndigo at 1:11 PM on February 7, 2011

People get gigs from friends/family/colleagues all the time. As long as you make it clear you're not looking for a handout, but more more help opening some doors, you'll be fine. As a well known businessman and philanthropist he's used to being hit up for gigs all the time by strangers. At least he sort of knows you.
posted by birdherder at 1:12 PM on February 7, 2011

Let go of your ego and explain the situation to him: You are finding it hard to get a job and he is a well-connected person who can help. Accept his help, get the job, and prove yourself worthy.
You will have learned to be bigger than your pride and to be grateful for the people in your life who can help you.
posted by mkdirusername at 1:19 PM on February 7, 2011

yes. there is nothing tacky or sleazy about this in the least. if your godfather is a well-known/prominent businessman, then he will understand the whole concept of networking—which is what you need to do.
posted by violetk at 1:19 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why not visit him personally, possibly for lunch, and ask for advice. Lay out your situation, and explain that your network is very small. Find out if he knows, and would introduce you to, some people who might be able to help you out. Using him as a reference is great, but limited because of how it might come across. But an introduction or two, or ten, is far different.

I get not wanting to take money, and I'm sure he'll respect your desire to turn down money. But your unwillingness to solicit advice is a little misguided--it's always worthwhile to solicit advice when you're not satisfied with the results of your own effort. I'm sure he'll have a lot of useful advice and will be happy to help you network.

If this gentleman is as connected as you say he is, there is absolutely no way he got there without doing what I'm suggesting you're about to do. He had guidance once, and he was certainly not above leveraging his acquaintances to grow his own network. You can be pretty sure he'll understand and respect your efforts in the same direction.
posted by Hylas at 1:19 PM on February 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

My feeling is that for very networked and plugged in people, asking for this sort of assistance is really not a huge problem. Obviously if you take your issues and drop them in his lap "Help me with this, I will continue to bug you until you have helped me" that would not be cool but that is clearly not what you are doing. And you're not asking for money which is a big deal. In most cases asking for not-money carries the implication that you'll do some of the work but you'd like a hand with the things that they might be particularly good with. I'm a pretty plugged-in person in my tiny niche of the world and I am always happy, really happy, to get to help people out.

So, if it's normal for you guys to get together and catch up, I'd just schedule another get together and when he asks you how you're doing be a lot more clear "You know, I'm having a really hard time [say what you've said above] and I try not to ask you for things but I'm wondering..." You seem like you've done the work, it's a tough economic time, you're not asking for money [and make this clear] and he's one of many other resources that you've made use of.
posted by jessamyn at 1:23 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Think of it this way: If he's as well connected as you say, there's a decent chance that he already knows of a few people looking to hire, and it wouldn't be much imposition to make an introduction.
posted by empath at 1:28 PM on February 7, 2011

I gotten a few "Uncle lobstah" calls in the past four years or so, and it was a good feeling to help the kids out, sort of a " It's better to give than receive" vibe. Some were for advice or guidance, and others needed some money see things through. Either way, I was glad to help, and I bet your Godfather feels the same. Give a call.
posted by lobstah at 1:34 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

As others have said, this is what your contacts are for. And if he's someone who considers himself to be your godfather when technically he's not, he clearly cares about you and your family, and will want to help. You're not just a random person off the street who he doesn't know.

Make it clear that you're asking for his advice, and for connections / introductions as you get settled in a new city. And that you're not asking for money, or for him to give you a job.

And be clear about what sort of work you're looking for. Are you just looking for a job - any job? Are you looking for a specific type of job but not fussed about the industry? Or are you looking for work in a specific sector? What level job are you looking for? The more specific you can be, the easier it is for him to know which people in his network are best placed to help you.

Good luck!
posted by finding.perdita at 1:40 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's fine to ask for help. I think a good way to approach it is to be specific. Don't just be like "hey, can you help me find a job." Instead something like, "I know you know people in the X industry, and I've been trying to get some work in that type of business. Do you know of anyone I could talk to that could help me make connections to find work?"
posted by elpea at 1:43 PM on February 7, 2011

To put it another way, this is part of "what he does" - he knows people and puts people together more often than you think. (I don't know him personally, but your description reminds me of one very close friend and another semi-close friend, so I am basing my thoughts on what I have seen of them.)

I would have lunch with him, mention that you are still looking, and let him know that if he has any tips you would be interested in his advice - you might get the name of someone for an informational interview or ask him to keep an eye out for anyone who needs what you do, or ask if there are any local organizations you could join, etc.

Just generally speaking, people love to help other people, especially people that they care about. I am not even the nicest person, but when I can help someone it makes me really happy, especially if it is just by doing what I already do, and really especially if I know that they are approaching me from a good place. No exaggeration, it is a big reward.
posted by mrs. taters at 1:46 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

And on reading back, I agree to be as clear as you can as to what you're looking for - it will make it easier for him to help you, and maximize the value for you.

And I forgot to each this point - he didn't get there without a lot of help, other people put him together with people and so on and so on - so he gets it, beyond just the fact that it's part of his world.

I feel like you guys have built a relationship, over well more than a decade, and this scenario we are talking about here doesn't put you into the category of a taker/favor asker/just someone looking to get something from him. Really.

(And best of luck in your search- hang in there!)
posted by mrs. taters at 1:52 PM on February 7, 2011

Why are you thinking about this so much? Just do it.
posted by Doohickie at 1:53 PM on February 7, 2011

this isn't a big deal. He's been in business for a long time- just tell him you are looking for work and you would love it if he could keep his eyes open for you. It's totally normal. And heck- you should be telling every single person you know the same damn thing.

Just make sure you thank him in advance as well as send him a card thanking him for at the very least his offer as a reference.
posted by Blisterlips at 2:00 PM on February 7, 2011

Others have asked more from him and deserved it less. Give him a chance to let him help his own godson.
posted by fantasticninety at 2:37 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Absolutely you should ask. I'm a godfather and if my goddaughter were in a similar situation I would be a bit offended if she didn't ask for help.
posted by bac at 2:49 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Go to lunch. Explain your situation. Ask him for guidance.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:39 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

People generally love to give this kind of assistance and I'm guessing that your Godfather would love the chance to help you out if he can. Seek him out as a mentor. Act on any advice he gives you and be gracious about any help or connections he gives you.
posted by amanda at 4:13 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Networking is asking other people (often people you don't know very well) for help making connections. That's something you're going to have to get used to. Now, asking Godfather for help networking -- yes, by all means, do that.

The best way to do this, I think, is to just ask him for advice.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:24 PM on February 7, 2011

I`m a Godfather officially, although not in the formal religious sense. Trust me on this, your Godfather will be thrilled to help you.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:53 PM on February 7, 2011

I've been thinking about the old saw that if you want money you should ask for advice, and if you want advice you should ask for money. Given that you want social capital, I'll add my voice to the "ask for advice" chorus. And just 'cause this may help trigger the right way to say it, something like...

"I've got these skills, I'm back in town, I'm having trouble figuring out how to apply them. I've tried resumes to these people, I'd really like to be doing these things, can you give me some advice?"
posted by straw at 6:01 PM on February 7, 2011

Do it! Do it do it do it. People are the most awesome way to get jobs. I would not have gotten my current job without asking someone for help with introductions.

I have to admit I always feel a little like I am being moochy and demanding when I am asking people for leads and things. But when people ask me, I in no way at all feel like they are doing something that is hard or annoying. Sometimes when people ask for particular options I might say "Uhh, well, I don't think that will really be a good match for you, but maybe I can help with X Y or Z instead which might work out better," but I certainly won't turn them down. Even acquaintances I've only met once or twice I'm happy to help as much as I can.

So don't feel bad about asking, and I bet your Godfather will be happy to help out. You have an ongoing good relationship (meeting to talk and such), and I would not be surprised if he would actually have fun going above and beyond even your request.
posted by that girl at 8:23 PM on February 7, 2011

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