We all need help from time to time in our careers, from landing our first job to being given the chance to work on juicy projects to getting a well-deserved raise and promotion. You probably know people who are incredibly successful in rallying others to help them achieve their goals. Then there are those who complain that their ambitions are perennially thwarted. What are they doing differently? As someone who has both been fast-tracked for leadership and presented with roadblocks to achieving my goals—at the same job, with the same leaders–I quickly learned that what makes the difference between getting what you want and being denied is the respect you show others. Consistently treating others with respect and appreciation will give you a wide circle of friends and associates invested in helping you get where you want to go.
“How you communicate and relate to others matters the most, and everything you do and say reflects upon the values you have.”
–San Francisco arts entrepreneur
Seems obvious, right? Well, let’s examine how showing respect and appreciation apply to the process of landing a job. You’d be amazed how many of the most polite and well-intentioned job seekers sabotage their own efforts with a few easily avoided missteps!
The good news is that you’ll have many opportunities to make a favorable impression and successfully enlist the support of others during your job search. We can break down the job search process into three basic phases: requests for information and networking help, interviewing and closing the deal. In each phase, you’ll have at least three chances to interact with a range of people: when you first reach out to them, when you connect with them and when you follow up to thank them.
PHASE 1: Asking for information and networking help
At the beginning of any job search, you may need to ask your peers, family, professors and others for job leads, possible contacts, informational interviews and even personal references. Here are the behaviors network contacts and referral sources say they would like to see from candidates:
When you reach out:
- Make a reasonable request to show that you respect their time and resources
- Make a specific request to show that you want to make it easy for them to fulfill
- Be enthusiastic to show that you are making the request because it is important to you and worth their time
When you connect:
- Show that you value the time they are giving up to connect with you by:
- Responding to their replies right away (within a few hours, not days)
- Being on time to meetings (phone or in person) and respecting their time constraints
- Being prepared for the meeting with a set of objectives (things you hope to learn, leads you hope to get) and thoughtful questions so you can have a focused conversation
When you follow up:
- Write a thank you note to the contact you met or spoke with right away (within a few hours, not days) to express appreciation for their perspectives and time
- Include details of your conversation in your note to demonstrate your interest in what they had to say
- Copy the person who referred or introduced you on your thank you note to the contact to show that you respect their personal networks
- Thank the person who referred you to the contact in a separate note in a timely way (within a day) to reaffirm the value of the connection
Missteps of two exceptional 2014 grads:
“I got a note from Sam, totally nice note, and I sent him a thoughtful response within a day, with a welcome invite to call anytime to chat. That was 4 days ago. I’ve had this happen over the years with people who contact me though my website, I get a note, I write a nice response, and never hear a thank you or anything back which is bad form.”
— Hiring Manager who agreed to an informational interview, March 2015
“I was on the phone for about an hour with Marc. I let him know I was impressed with his listening skills (as well as with his achievements to date). I said he could contact me along the way if he has any questions. I will definitely let you know if I hear from him.” A month went by without a thank you to either the informational interviewer or the person who referred him.
–Senior Executive who gave an informational interview, October 2014
Post by Lisa Noble (CLAS ’87)
After graduating from University of Virginia (CLAS ’87), armed with a degree in psychology but lacking useful contacts and career direction, Lisa sweet talked her way into a succession of increasingly responsible jobs, from Educational Testing Director at The Johns Hopkins University to Senior Consultant at IBM to US Research Director at Bayer Healthcare and finally VP of Quantitative Insight at a WPP marketing consultancy. Her work over the past 14 years leading teams of young people, creating career paths and grooming them for their next employer or role has led her to start Career Connectors, LLC. There, she helps recent college grads and career changers discover, market themselves for and land great jobs.
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