How to Use Friends of Friends In Your Job Hunt

Basketball hoop, originally uploaded to Flickr by Steve A. Johnson.How do you use friends of friends in your job hunt — whether through LinkedIn, Facebook, or just real life?  There have been an number of questions about this lately, including Reader A, below… her friend may be starting work at a company with a great work environment and has offered to refer her for a position once she starts, but as Reader A says:

… after looking into the company a bit, I realized that company is co-owned by an acquaintance of mine’s, “Ann’s” father.  I went to Jr. high through college with his daughter, we were on HS newspaper together and had the same major in college and were buddies, but not close friends.  However, it’s been about 6 years since college and she moved across country so we’re pretty much just Facebook buddies.  I would really like to ask if she could give my resume to her father as it could be very helpful in securing a position there, but I don’t want to seem rude.  If she worked there, I’d simply pass it along to her, but is it inappropriate to ask her to give it to her dad?  Also, should I have a specific position in mind or be open to anything (which I am?  What’s the best way to ask her?  Please advise me how to go about this situation!

This is a great question, because you should definitely ask.  Sometimes a script can be helpful when approaching acquaintances with a favor of this magnitude, though, so here is what I would say:

Dear Ann — How are you?  It’s been so long; I hope all is well.  Your family name recently crossed my path while researching a company I’d love to work for — it turns out it’s your father’s company!  Do you think it would be possible for you to introduce me to your dad via email? I’d love to get his advice for the best way to get into Office X.

A lot has happened on my end of things since our newspaper and college days — I’m sure it has for you too. I took my major in __ and worked at ___, getting really interested in __ specialty.  On the personal side of things I have an apartment I love, an amazing cat, and I’ve recently started dating a great guy….  Are you still using Major __?  What’s up with you these days?  Would love to reconnect the next time you’re back in town…

So, to break it down, here’s my advice…

- Be very clear about what you want.  Remember, people are busy, so you shouldn’t bury the lead: you want an introduction to her father.  In fact, I’d even put that as the subject line to the email or FB message.

- Be as warm as possible. Just because you’re being clear about what you want doesn’t mean it has to be an arm’s length transaction. I’d also say that just because you weren’t best friends 10 years ago doesn’t mean you might not be great friends now — people grow, and I would honestly look at this as a possible “new” friend, particularly if you work in the same industry.  Briefly disclose a bit of your life — be positive without bragging, and share without giving TMI.  If you’ve noticed on her activity stream that she recently got married, or moved to a new city, congratulate her on it — tell her the dress was to die for, or offer up your favorite restaurant in that city.  Be honest, of course, and not stalkerish.  Good: “I seem to remember seeing wedding pictures on your activity stream a while back — congratulations, you looked so happy!”  Bad: “I remember from your update on June 3, 2010 that you thought ‘people should mind their own business [insert other moody and purposely vague FB post here].’ I hope you resolved whatever that was about!”

- Be generally brief so the recipient reads and decides the outcome immediately, instead of setting aside the email to read later.  A lot of this depends on the recipient’s attitude about these things, more than your wording of the letter.  Some people will think, “Cool, no problem, I’ll dash off a two-line email introducing you and him.”  Some people will immediately think “Wow, I’m so not comfortable doing that;” some of these people will tell you that and others will just not respond.  Either way, by being brief and clear in your letter, you get the response immediately — whereas writing a three paragraph salvo may just result in the person saying “wow, this is long, I’ll read this later,” and then forgetting about it entirely.  (For my $.02, if I got an email like this from a high school/college acquaintance, I’d be fine to dash off a two-line email introducing you to whomever, but I would probably make it clear in that email that Reader A isn’t my best friend, she’s just someone I know from college and high school.)

Ultimately, though, I think this is one of those things where the adage, “You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take,” applies.  Make the call, write the email — if you miss, so what? It won’t hurt in your current job hunt, and if this person is already just an old acquaintance, it doesn’t sound like your relationship will be changed much.  (Pictured above: Basketball hoop, originally uploaded to Flickr by Steve A. Johnson.)

Readers, what is your approach for using second- and third-tier connections in your job search?  How do you ask for referrals?

Comments

  1. I totally agree with Kat on this one! Who you know is big big big!

  2. Sorry for the early Threadjack, but this week I need to fill out a self-evaluation for my first performance review. This is my first job out of law school and the first time I’ve had to do anything like this and I’d appreciate any advice! I have to rate myself on a scale of 1-5 in a long list of criteria and provide comments or examples. My supervisor has told me in the past that I’m doing a good job, but I am still struggling with how to fill this out in a way that is objective.

    • I’m interested in hearing this, too. Focus on areas you want to grow in?

      I recently had to fill out a self-evaluation, and I tried to address the issues that came up in my previous review – but not sure beyond that.

    • karenpadi :

      All 5s. Make the comments as BS-y as possible. Self-evaluations are pretty pointless and can only hurt you in the end. FWIW, my firm allows (but doesn’t require) us to do a self-evaluation and I skip it every year–along with everyone else in my office. Instead, if my evaluation has anything I disagree with, I write a response to the evaluation and start looking for a new job.

      The last time this happened, the stock market was crashing and law firms were thinking lay-offs. I had two job offers within two weeks of my lay-off. And this is relevant because…I got those two offers by doing exactly what Kat talks about here. I went to a mentor and begged him to help me leave the firm I was at. He told me to contact two people I’d never met and just say “Frank told me to email you.”

    • PharmaGirl :

      Have you received any instruction as to the meaning of the scale? Most companies use the 5-point scale and a 3 is defined as “meets expectations.” Getting a rating of 3 is NOT A BAD THING, despite the craziness it inspires in many worker bees. A 3 means you are doing your job competently. A 4 is reserved for instances where you go above and beyond and, in my company, a 5 is completely unattainable.

      If your company doesn’t base merit increases on the evaluation, just fill it out honestly and let it go. Try to demonstrate excellence in at least one major category and indicate where you know you need to bump up your performance.

      • These self-evaluations are mandatory and there is a rubric: 3 is meets expectations without taking the extra step; 4 is goes above and beyond to accomplish high quality work; 5 is something seemingly unattainable like performance sets new standards for the organization or changes our priorities.” I am an entry-level attorney (and I don’t think it would be possible for me to defend a 5 – in any category – with a straight face). I think these might contribute to merit based raises, but the process isn’t transparent.

        • I answered my first evaluation honestly and with a critical eye. I went through this mental process as I was filling it out: what would my boss say was my weakness, how can I minimize this weakness and say how I am doing it better – and you do the reverse for your stenghts: what are my strengths, how can I highlight them (with concrete examples) and how will I continue on this path. For the question on my weaknesses I answered as: getting rushed as I try to get a filing out the door and getting so jumbled I forget to do that last proofread or that last little detail. I stated that I thought it was my weakness (it was), I then stated how I was working on bettering that (for me it was an out-the-door checklist: 1) caption right?; 2) certificate of service included?; 3) exhibits attached?; 4) did I do a final proofread?) and then state that this is actually helping.

          About two weeks later the head of litigation stopped by my office and said: “when I usually read these things I think: ‘what planet is this person living on,’ is this person even talking about themselves” but your self-evaluation was spot on.” I took that comment as an extremely high praise. But maybe I am being naive.

          • If its just a numerical scoring system (without any explanation component) then that would be way harder… not sure what I would do…

        • I think it’s important to note that knowing your genuine strengths and weaknesses and writing them honestly (and maybe even humbly) in your self eval are two totally separate things. It’s worth getting a sense from others at your firm how much the higher-ups value “honesty” and how much they really just expect people to sell themselves.

          At my first job, one of my senior associates did me the favor of returning my initial self-eval to me and telling me to redo it, even if it meant inflating the rating to be higher than I thought I really deserved – his view was “let others tell you that you’re not as good as you think you are, because they’re never going to say you’re better than you claim you are.”

          Also be careful with regard to what the ratings *really* mean at your firm, regardless of the official definition. For example, my last firm rated on a 1-10 scale, so when I had to fill our peer reviews, I initially thought a 6 would mean a person was “fine” at something, just not outstanding. It turns out, nobody there ever gives anything below a 7 in any category, unless they mean to convey that the person should be fired. Thankfully I found that out before I pressed the “submit” button.

  3. karenpadi :

    When I’m involved in one of these requests as the middle-person, I think it’s easiest to just forward the request to the target person with a quick note like “FYI, Jane from high school is looking for a job and might be a good fit for you.” So please make the note something I can forward to a business contact–no retelling of college frat party stories. I’ll usually cc: the requester. In this case, the target person will usually forget to respond or the email will buried. I think it’s perfectly appropriate to follow-up one time with the target a day or two after the introduction–”Hi, Karenpadi introduced us and I looking forward to meeting you. Would lunch next Tuesday work for you? (or What would be the best way to submit my resume?)”.

    I think a more efficient thing to do to avoid getting buried in email is just to go ahead and make the contact myself. I’ve had a number of people contact me out of the blue and say “Hi, Dan Lastname mentioned that I should call you for help with xyz. I am currently doing abc and want to transition to jkl. Would you be available for lunch sometime next week?”

    • follow up :

      So, on that note…. I’ve had two people introduce me, and I sent emails directly to the person with a note about the introduction, etc. etc. However, after that initial note, I never got a response, even though they had responded to the person who introduced me. It’s been about 3 weeks for one and 2 weeks for another, so I was planning to email them again, but now what do I say? Just mention I’m following up, since they told my friend they’d be happy to help me?

      • karenpadi :

        The target isn’t interested/doesn’t have an opening/can’t really help you. He’s just trying to keep your mutual friend happy. Maybe casually bring it up with the mutual friend that you haven’t heard from the target. Then let this contact go.

        Networking is like this. You get a response maybe half the time, usually less.

      • When I get an email from a friend introducing me and asking me to help out someone, I don’t think it’s my responsibility to follow up with that person. I expect the person to contact me to follow up. So I think you should have emailed both of them the same day that your friend did, but at any rate, better late than never.

        • karenpadi :

          This too. I hadn’t realized that you hadn’t directly contacted the target person. The person asking for the favor needs to take the initiative.

          • It wasn’t entirely clear to me either, but I think her friend sent an email copying both her and the target person.

        • follow up :

          Sorry, I was unclear. In both cases, I did sent a note directly to the target person within a day of the introduction. One person requested that I send a note to her work email (introducer gave me a person email), but I never heard back after re-sending the note to her work email. I sent a note directly to the other target person, and never heard back at all.

          • karenpadi :

            Then my guess is that they can’t really help you or aren’t interested in helping you.

            Frankly, this happens and I’ve done this to entry-level job seekers who just aren’t qualified to work in my niche and who I can’t really help because I don’t know anyone who could help them. e.g., “She’s an IP lawyer and you want to be a criminal lawyer! You should meet.” Yeah, sorry, I don’t know any criminal lawyers and can’t really help you out there.

            Give it time. I’ve had a few of these introductions where a month or two later I’ll serendipitously meet or reconnect with someone who might be helpful. Then I used to try to set up the introduction. But I’ve stopped doing this because the requester usually doesn’t follow-up with the target person and my contact asks me “Why didn’t Jane call me? Has she found a job?”

          • Agree with karenpadi. Sorry I misunderstood.

  4. Threadjack: (hoping its not too late in the day):
    I’m stumped on a college graduation gift for my sister. She doesn’t have a “career” job lined up and if/when she finds one it will likely be an entry level position with a non-profit (or she will go right to grad school). I was thinking monogrammed stationary to send thank-yous after informational interviews and the like. She already has useful basics like a nice size Longchamp and a nice watch from my parents. As for jewelry, anything beyond the typical sterling silver Tiffany necklace–which she has dozens of–is beyond my price range. My husband suggested getting her diploma framed but since she has no office in her immediate future I didn’t think it the most useful gift. Any other ideas?

    • How about business cards for her job hunt? You can get them pretty cheap on-line (of course let her pick her customization) and you could get her a nice business card holder to go with, that she could continue to use once she got a job.

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      IMO, monogrammed stationary is a waste. Most thank yous are emailed these days and while mailing on is a nice touch, a lot of times people have already made the decision to hire/not hire.

      My suggestion is to get business cards printed for her (just with her name, college name, degree + contact info) and get a nice business card holder. That way she has something to exchange (I felt very awkward when I had no “cards” at interviews post-college and interviewers tossed me theirs).

    • An interview outfit would be another good idea, if she doesn’t have one already.

      • BigLaw Optimist :

        I did this for both of my siblings. I bought my brother a really nice, classic BB suit, and I bought my sister a really nice interview outfit (BR charcoal suit -jacket, pants, skirt- and a pretty shell). Both have used them a lot, for everything from interviews to weddings to funerals, and neither would have the money for (or want to spend it on) a nice suit for themselves. I would have done jewelry, but my sister loses e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. and my brother is a big hulking dude who doesn’t wear jewelry (and he has giant wrists, so even watches are impossible).

    • T. McGill :

      A nice pair of earrings. They don’t have to be expensive, just something simple and classic she can wear to interviews and a new job. Hopefully they will bring her luck , and she can always think fond thoughts when she wears them.

    • My parents got me the diploma frame that my college sold, and I really like it, even though I didn’t go to an office job right out of undergrad. It’s the kind of thing that I wouldn’t get myself (as evidenced by the fact that my law school diploma is still sitting in its tube, next to the inexpensive, generic diploma frame I got to put it in when I get around to it). So, I wouldn’t rule that out as a gift.

    • I never framed a diploma til my dad went all out & had my PhD get the full treatment. I bet your sister’s papers will also languish in oblivion even after she has a wall to hang them in if they don’t get framed right away.

      But if you want useful, how about a silver or other precious metal monogrammed card holder? Or you could go ultra-practical and get her a clothes steamer. She won’t use it for daily life in grad school, but when she makes presentations or goes on interviews in a couple years, she’ll be glad to have it!

    • My sister just graduated from college about 6 months ago and I put together a little gift which has been useful for her. I got a small decorative basket that was her style (so she could use it at home or work) and put a variety of small items that are really great to have on-hand at work that newbies to the work force don’t think of, such as: floss, tissues, small mirror, chapstick, mini deodorant, tampons, Tide pen (stain remover), pens, band-aids, nail file, bobby pins, pony-tail holders, gum, aspirin, Tums, hand sanitizer, and a travel cup (she already had coffee travel mugs, so I got her a clear starbucks one with a straw which she uses a lot) and crackers. Basically, things I keep in my purse or desk that I’ve found helpful to have. It works for any job!

  5. Shopping Habits Threadjack
    What sort of shopping habits do you have? Is there a discernible pattern?

    While on this shopping ban, I’ve been analyzing my purchasing patterns. My best friend, G. is a “grazer” and she’ll shop for this and that. She’s not bound by item category or by seasons or by trends.

    I think I do something akin to farmers’ crop rotation. (1 season wheat, next season turnips, third season barley, last season leaving the field fallow to replenish the earth, and repeat.) So, I get fixated on an item, like: jackets, or casual shirts, or nice jeans, or shoes for 3-5 weeks where I want to buy intensely in that item category. It’s dangerous, because sometimes, I end up with too many items that fit a certain trend, but I’m getting better about that now.

    The problem is, unlike the farmers, I never have a fallow period….except for this shopping ban right now. *le sigh* Must replenish discretionary spending “fund” just as farmers need to give the land a break to replenish the soil.

    • Reposting this in another thread, to get more responses. I’m curious if others have these types of shopping patterns!

    • Always a NYer :

      I’m a binge shopper. I can go months without purchasing anything and then I’ll have weeks and weeks where I’m buying everything I can think of. It’s my pattern and I’ve come to accept it. The way I rationalize it is this – most people have a monthly shopping allowance and plan accordingly, I use 4-5months $ in one.

      Don’t beat yourself up over this. As long as you aren’t getting into debt, you’re fine =p

  6. In-House Europe :

    On this topic from the ask-ee’s point of view…I went in-house relatively early on and found it incredibly uncomfortable to have acquaintances and even friends at law firms trying to get business from me. I’m of course happy to have business go to people I know but honestly I sometimes felt like people were contacting me only because of my job and not because I am a friend. I guess what I would say is to not push too hard – I was fine with biglaw friend sending me legal updates that I might find interesting, not so much with biglaw random acquaintance friending me on facebook…you clearly don’t want to be “friends” so send me something on Linked In.

    • I had the same reaction. This wasn’t really a “friend of a friend,” but a “friend of an acquaintance” and an old one at that. I would be worried about seeming opportunistic.

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