Ever since I’ve started working at The Muse, I’ve gotten cornered by people at social gatherings who whisper in my ear, “Hey, I’m looking for a job, I heard you can help.”
I typically respond by pulling the person into a back alley, opening up my trench coat, and asking if the person’s looking for fully tailored resumes or cover letters with witty openers—or, for an extra cost, offer letters that only need their signature.
Just kidding. The lighting in back alleyways tends to be horribly unflattering.
Instead, I typically respond with something about letting their network know they’re looking, since that’s the best way to get a foot in the door. To which they almost always say, “Oh, that’s nice, but I’m trying to keep this pretty low-key right now.”
I get it. When I started my last job search I did the same. I had this fantasy of waltzing into dinner and announcing the news to my friends and family that I landed this amazing new position.
They’d say, “I didn’t even know you were looking.” And I’d casually reply, “Oh, it just fell into my lap.” Then they’d all simultaneously think, “Wow, Jenni must be really good at what she does to leave one great company for another.” Then I’d say something fancy like, “Next round is on me, old chaps.”
How did that fantasy play out in real life?
I got a few interviews, zero offers, and eventually laid off. The good news is that being unemployed left me with no choice but to confront two truths:
- I was unhappy in my current situation.
- I needed help.
These facts are easy for me to type out now, but they felt so hard to admit when everyone else around me appeared to be thriving in their careers. No one else I knew needed help from their network, so why did I?
However, as soon as I started being honest about my situation, the opportunities started rolling in. Turns out people want to help you! But they can’t if you don’t clue them into what you need.
Think about it: Have you ever turned to a friend in the middle of a conversation about The Bachelor and said, “Hey, would you like me to proofread your resume?” or “My cousin’s company is hiring if you’d like me to connect you two.”
That means that rather than trying to pull this off all by yourself, tell your friends, tell your former colleagues, and tell your family. While you don’t want to shout it from the rooftops (mostly because that’s a wildly ineffective way to communicate), you should clue your network in to the fact that you’re looking. It’s honestly as easy as sending this “help me find a job” email.
The majority of the interviews I went on after being laid off came from friends-of-friend leads. Leads I never got before I lost my job because no one knew I wanted them. And the position I ended up getting at The Muse? That “in” came from a former manager’s friend.
So, if you’re serious about looking for a new role, stop treating it like a stealth mission. You’re not in the CIA (unless you are, and in that case, you do you). You’re just someone who’s looking for a new opportunity—and who’s smart enough to know it’s a lot easier to find it when other people are keeping an eye out, too.
This article originally appeared on The Daily Muse and is reprinted with permission.