How to Ask Your Networks for Help: A Step-by-Step Guide

Jun 11, 2020 • Views 208

By Angell Kim

When you’re searching for a new job, or applying to an undergraduate, Master’s, or even a PhD program, you can’t do it alone. I have received help from numerous people from people I knew within my circles and even complete strangers, and I owe my greatest gratitude to them for my recommendation letters, references, interview preparation tips, and constructive feedback during the application processes. Indeed, one thing that is important to keep in mind during the search and process is expressing gratitude.

Most of us wouldn’t have been able to be where we are without the help of others, and as we are overcoming COVID-19, it is a great time to reconnect with old networks and connect with new ones to ask for help and offer help to others.

Before we get to the tips, consider these two example emails to someone in your network who has agreed to help you:

1. Hi Bob, 

Attached is my resume. Feel free to look.

-Joe

2. Hi Bob,

Thank you for your time to look over my resume. I look forward to your feedback.

Thank you,

Joe

Which email would you prefer receiving?

Knowing it’s best to say please and thank you is not enough. We need to actually carry out these manners when seeking help or advice. Here are the do’s and do not’s of asking for help during any application process.

1. Do Not Ask Up Front With What You Need.

When you dig out your old emails and login to your LinkedIn account to reach out and catch up with your old networks, you probably shouldn’t start the conversation by asking for what you need, especially if it’s been a long time since you last talked to that person. 

Instead, if you need to get a recommendation letter for a program or an informational interview at a company, you should reach out to them via email or LinkedIn messenger to ask for an opportunity to catch up first. This is where the art of small talk, listening skills, and an inquisitive mind come into play. After beginning this initial conversation, you will know when it is appropriate to ask for what you need. 

2. Do Not Expect or Demand, But Ask With a Cushioned Deadline!

When you are the one needing help – whether it be having your resume or cover letter reviewed, getting a recommendation letter, or getting connected to a certain person for a specific job – you have to ask! 

Once you’ve reconnected and the moment is appropriate to express your needs, ask and you shall receive. Our connections do not owe us anything, and if they are willing to help, we should be considerate and courteous with our request, including a cushioned deadline. Not only is it important to ask, but also giving some wiggle room or a “cushion” to the actual deadline will be beneficial for both you and your contact. 

1. Hi Bob,

I am interested in this job (link) in communications and project management. The job post closes on May 1, 2020. Here is my resume.

-Joe

2. Hi Bob, 

I am interested in this job (link) in communications and project management. Would you be able to review my resume (attached) by April 27th?

Thank you for your time.

Joe

3. Do Follow-Up Strategically.

Now, you’ve reconnected, you’ve asked for help, and your contact isn’t responding or hasn’t followed through with what your request. It’s time to strategically follow-up.

We are all very busy people with families, jobs, side jobs, and other adulting tasks, so we have to be considerate of people’s time. However, that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t follow up. You’re not annoying them but rather reminding them.

There is no manual for specific timelines in the art of following-up, but in the case that you want to reconnect but haven’t heard back from your contact, I would recommend reaching back out again after three business days until you hear a response. However, if by the third time you haven’t heard back, you probably will need to reach out to another person. 

If you’ve reconnected and your contact has agreed to help you, but you haven’t heard back by the cushioned deadline given, you should follow-up the day after the cushioned deadline. Be mindful of weekends!

This is where it is important to note the timing of reconnecting and informing your contact of a “cushioned” deadline, so that you have the extra time to follow-up, review, and turn in your document, etc by the actual deadline.

1. Hi Bob,

I am following up here on my resume and need it by tomorrow. 

-Joe

2. Hi Bob,

How have you been? I am following up on if you were able to review my resume. Is it still possible to give me feedback by tomorrow?

Thank you,

Joe

4. Confirm Receipt.

Let’s say your contact has gotten back to you and reviewed your resume. The first thing you should do is say thank you! This kills two birds with one stone: expressing gratitude and confirming receipt of the help.

1. (no response)

2. Hi Bob,

Thank you so much for reviewing my resume. I am going to complete my job application  and will keep you posted

Thanks again,

Joe

5. Follow-Up Some More.

During our journey applying for a school, program, or job, we will need the help of others and connections. We are all involved in the process, and in one way or the other, we have to collaborate and communicate in a connected way.

Of course, it is not 100% possible to keep in touch with all of your contacts all the time, but it is always worth informing your contact on how your application panned out, whether it be in your favor or not. It is also a joy when you are in the position of helping others to hear back from the people you’ve helped because collaboration and lifting others is rewarding. Additionally, when you are the one seeking help, even if your application is unsuccessful, it’s wise to reach out anyway because you continue that communication channel. In this way, you may give back to others or ask for more help in the future. 

Keeping in touch professionally doesn’t require too much, but there is an etiquette that comes with it. This can be done with a simple email to follow-up with your reference, recommender, resume reviewerm etc. that,

1. You got the job! 

2. You didn’t get the job, but were thankful for the experience. 

Whatever the outcome may be, the application journey can be a long one, but you’re not alone if you reach out for help and later give back to others to return the favor and express your gratitude throughout the process.

In conclusion…

During the process of applying for anything, expressing gratitude every step of the way gives a great impression of you and you build a circle of support and help where you may be able to reach out again along in your life. 

Although there is no strict manual on how to write a “perfect” email,  just remember what kind of email you would like to receive and send!

1. (no response)

2. Thank you everyone for reading my article. I hope you found it useful and applicable to your lives!

Angell Kim graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Global Studies and a Minor in Latin American Studies. She is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Colombia (2016-2018), a 2020 Donald M. Payne International Development Fellow, and is a 2020 Paul D. Coverdell Fellow and MPA candidate at the University of Arizona.

© Victoria Johnson 2020, all rights reserved

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