Tell People You’re Job Hunting Without Seeming Desperate

Career DevelopmentJob SearchNetworkingPersonal Branding

You’re on the search for a new job, and you know the best path to your next one is to reach out to your network to see if they can help.
But how can you tell people you’re looking for a new job or a career change without seeming desperate? Here are a few do’s and don’ts to follow.

  1. DO set up informational interviews with people in the field you want to work in. These can be with friends and associates, but try to expand beyond that group. Ask those friends and associates who they know, and if they can recommend anyone else to meet.
  2. DO ask them for an introduction between you and the other person. This will establish some credibility on your part, because your friend or associate is vouching for you.
  3. DON’T just email that person out of the blue, and say “my good friend Steve told me to call you,” especially if 1) Steve is not your good friend, and 2) Steve never told you to call. The last thing you need is for the other person to call Steve, who will reveal your lie.
  4. DON’T ask the informational interviewee for a job. That’s not why you’re there. You’re there to gather information, not to circumvent their company’s candidate hiring process. You’ll be seen as shady and manipulative if you pull that stunt. If they have an unpublished opening and they decide to hire you, that’s different. But don’t be sneaky and underhanded.
  5. DO make social media connections with hiring managers and the people you’re likely to work for. We’ve gone on and on about this before on this blog. Hopefully you’ve been listening.
  6. DON’T blanket everyone in your address book with a generic email. For one thing, you don’t have that kind of relationship with all of them. At best, your email will be a minor annoyance. At worst, you could throw a wrench into your job search machine, especially if you accidentally wrote to your current boss or a tattletale coworker.
  7. DO email people on an individual basis. Write each person one at a time and explain what you’re looking for. This will help you tailor your message and be more specific about what you’re looking for and how they can help.
  8. DO call up companies and ask them if they’re hiring for a particular role. A friend who works at an HR trade association says this strategy works way more often than you’d think, and he’s surprised more people aren’t doing it. Find out who’s in charge of the department you’d like to work for, call and introduce yourself, then ask if you can send a copy of your résumé.
  9. DON’T worry that that last piece of advice contradicts #3. It doesn’t. It’s one thing to call someone out of the blue inquiring about a job, it’s a completely different thing to lie to someone about why you want to meet with them.

Your job search, just like the rest of your career networking, is about the personal touch. It’s not about automating and making your life easier. It’s carrying water, a bucket at a time. This is your career we’re talking about, not the launch of a 7-page ebook. Treat it seriously and work hard at it. Follow these steps until you’re done. If you haven’t found a job yet, you’re not done.


Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, a newspaper humor columnist, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing, and The Owned Media Doctrine.