How to ask for help finding a job without being a jerk
May 23, 2016 3:00 PM   Subscribe

I have some quasi-friends that I used to work with, and I feel guilty about not keeping in touch with them. Now I need their help finding a job. Can I email them and say "Hey, I have been ignoring you but now I'm your friend because I need a favor from you," except not be a jerk?

I actually do like these people and want to be their friend. But I'm an introvert and really bad at answering email. I also really need a new job and I know they could help.

I'm not sure if this is totally OK (I guess it would be if were were just "professional" acquaintances? but it's not quite like that), or I'm a horrible person. Probably somewhere along that spectrum, but I don't know where.

Any tips on what I could say to ask for help while also being nice and not sounding like I'm just using them?

Thanks a lot.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You can invite them for coffee to catch up. Once you're there, and have dispatched the pleasantries, you can ask for help job hunting.
posted by crazycanuck at 3:02 PM on May 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

If it were me (and someday it will be, because I'm terrible at keeping in touch with people) I would just put it right out there and say, "Hey, I miss you and I'm ALSO I'm looking for a job. Sorry that's what had to motivate me to get back in touch. Do you want to get coffee (or other appropriate activity) sometime?"

But I have a tendency to just go full awkward and try to get it over with.
posted by mskyle at 3:07 PM on May 23, 2016 [43 favorites]

Have you been actively bailing on them when they are inviting you to places, or have you simply and normally faded? If the first is true, it will be harder, but if your normal m.o. is not being touch very often and they know that, I wouldn't worry about it at all.
posted by Vaike at 3:08 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

What level of help are you expecting from them? If it's just a "LMK if you hear of any openings," then only a very casual acquaintance is needed. But if it's a "revise my resume and help me practice interview techniques for hours on end," then I think that requires a deeper level of friendship.
posted by Liesl at 3:09 PM on May 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

I might be totally honest about it and throw a no-host at a fun bar. Here's how I'd word the invitation:

Your favorite hermit and introvert Anon is looking for a new gig and in need of serious networking! Please join me at Tskotchke's for a No Host Happy Hour on Thursday at 6:00 PM.

I am sure your friends understand, and it's a fun way to reconnect. Even if only one person shows up, it's cool, have a drink and chat.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:12 PM on May 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think you're overthinking this. Just shoot a quick mail saying "Hey So-and-so, how have you been? I'm looking for a job, do you know of any openings?" No more than 2-3 sentences. Don't mention how you've been flaky or not in contact or whatever.

Personally - if a friend of mine who was really flaky or just not in contact for a long time e-mailed me out of the blue and asked for help finding a job - I'd help them find a job (in the sense of letting them know of any openings or forwarding their resume or whatever). It's just basic human decency to help someone if you can.

If someone who's been out of contact emailed me out of the blue and said they wanted to "catch up over coffee or drinks" and then after chit chatting for a while they were like "I'm looking for a job", only then would I be like "Ohhhhh, so that's the only reason you wanted to hang out with me."

If you actually do want to reconnect with these people beyond getting their help finding a job, then ask them to help you find a job first, then later ask them out for drinks or whatever. Combining the two is going to be slightly awkward no matter how you spin it.
posted by pravit at 3:38 PM on May 23, 2016 [50 favorites]

I get hit up for help getting a job at my company a lot. I HATE. H. A. T. E. the out of the blue, "hey wanna grab coffee?" because I know when we sit down at that coffee table you are going to ask me to help you get a job. And then it happens and all I can think is, well, that was a giant waste of time because you clearly don't actually want to catch up, you dragged me out here just for you.

Just be honest from the beginning. Admit you haven't gotten in touch in a while, ask for their help and THEN ask if they want to get coffee or something as well to catch up if you do actually want to catch up. Honesty is the best policy.
posted by magnetsphere at 3:41 PM on May 23, 2016 [32 favorites]

Never as the friend for a job at his company. Ask him about the industry and other firms and let it be known that you are looking for leads and places to find leads. But don't ask. If there is an opportunity at his company, it's up to him to say so.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:55 PM on May 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Definitely be up front about why you're contacting them. Probably all of us have gotten a job because we knew someone who helped us out.

If you're also trying to rekindle a friendship with them, approach that separately and after their response to your request for job help.

"Hey, Mike, How are things at Company Y? I'm trying to get back into That Industry and Company Y is the best in town/ has great benefits/ would really improve my commute. If you could let me know about any openings, I would really appreciate it. Thanks! -Anon"
posted by thewestinggame at 4:57 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's fine to honestly ask for help finding a job. It's not fine to ask people to give up time to hang out with you when what you actually want is job-finding help, not to catch up.

When I was an in house recruiter I got soooo many "can I buy you a cup of coffee?" emails and they bugged me a lot. If it's daytime, I'm working, and any time I spend away from work is time I need to make up later at the expense of my evening hours. But "hey, hope you've been well. I'm looking for a new gig so if you hear of anything that'd be a match, I'd love it if you'd let me know" is perfectly fine. So is "hey do you happen to know who's hiring?" or even "hey I'm looking for a new gig in X industry and if you have any advice for me I'd love a chance to get your thoughts." But understand you're asking them for a favor, and don't pretend otherwise.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:05 PM on May 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

I agree with thewestinggame -- keep the job email and the "how are you? we should catch up" sentiments separate. Bundling them together will make you look insincere about the friendship part, even though you really do want to pursue that on its own.

Maybe it's just a personal pet peeve of mine -- whenever I get a note that comes off like, "How are you? Good? OKAY HERE'S WHAT I WANT" it makes me cringe deeply.
posted by delight at 5:10 PM on May 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

You're overthinking this. Just send them some version of "Hey person I used to work with, how's it going? I just wanted to say that I'm in the market for a new job right now, and I'd really appreciate it if you were to pass on any leads that you might happen to know about. Hope everything is going awesome for you!"

You don't have to be close to someone to make a request like this, especially if you also had a professional relationship as well as a personal one. It's just networking; you don't have to send Christmas cards to everyone in your professional network, or go on hikes with them or whatever.

And anyway, it's not as if they've been doing the work of keeping in touch with you either, right? You've both kinda let things slide, and now you're both in this space of "former coworker I used to hang out with and who I'm still on good terms with even if we never really talk anymore." It's totally fine to hit up someone like that for job leads, you don't (and shouldn't) pretend that you also want to be friends again, unless you actually do also want to be friends again jn which case you probably shouldn't hit them up for leads because then they'll feel like you are just using them.

Basically, you're asking a minor favor from someone you know and respect who works in your industry. People do this all the time. Don't worry about it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:17 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

"Bad at answering emails" isn't a trait that makes me want to help some acquaintance find a gig. I don't understand the connection to introversion, either.
If you need a job and have some contacts who may be able to assist you, I think you might want to brush up on your social skills.
People who can't be bothered to stay in touch with me except when they need a favor don't really get my full attention. I'm not suggesting that you need to go full-bore social butterfly but if people have emailed you or invited you to something and you've blown them off, you might want to try a very gentle approach.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:20 PM on May 23, 2016

Nthing the majority. Howdy, hope you're well, lemme know if you hear of any job that might be a good fit for me. I'm looking for a, b and c because I enjoy x, y and z. Take care, Anonymous. That's direct and doesn't waste anyone's time plus it tells what kind of job you're interested in, which is a critical piece of intel. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 5:23 PM on May 23, 2016

I agree with Pravit, most people will be happy to help if there's an easy way for them to do it, even for a casual acquaintance. If you also want to rekindle your friendship, add that on separately -- "Hey, it's been a while! I wanted to let you know I'm job searching -- if you hear of anything, I'd really appreciate it if you could pass it on to me. Also, it would be great to catch up sometime, let me know if you'd like to grab coffee one of these days!"
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:33 PM on May 23, 2016

I just want to say that while I'm sure Ideefixe represents some of the population, I really am never upset if people email me out of the blue for a job reference, whether they were coworkers or I was their boss or they interned or whatever. I totally understand that our relationship was work-related and that it's logical that when they're looking for work they'll get in touch with me. It's usually not a huge amount of effort they're asking for and I'm all about paying things forward that way.

I don't need coffee, just the kind of info that's in some of the answers here - what you need from me, and if I'm a reference, details of the job and anything you think I should remember about working with me for me to pass on.

posted by warriorqueen at 6:58 PM on May 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

You can ramp up to asking for a job by liking or writing a short friendly comment (really short- like "wow" or "looks amazing!") on their most-recent social media posts. If you don't use social media, open an account, friend them, and then ask a week or two later. You can always close the accounts later. By doing this, you put yourself into their thoughts in a nice way, and then the ask doesn't come right out of the blue. A straight out of the blue ask would annoy me a bit. At least compliment something they've been working on- make the interaction have some small positive value for them, too. "Hi Lisa, your vacation photos were gorgeous, you looked like you were having so much fun!" is a better opener for me than just straight-up "do me a favour?"
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:08 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lots of good suggestions on reaching out.

I suggest at least looking at the company's job postings first. I've known folks to get frustrated by friends who ask for help finding a job at their company, but haven't looked at the company postings or applied to any jobs.

From my POV, if you've already applied or at least know the job/area you're interested in, I can possibly tell you who the hiring manager is, the company gossip about that unit, why the last person in that role left, and offer to mention your application to the hiring manager if I do know them.

Also some companies offer a referral bonus: if employees refer someone who gets hired, they get $$. So your friends might possibly see this as an opportunity.

Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 8:26 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older Mountainous visual reference of 19th century Japan...   |   More like this! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.