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Job seekers, do you bite the hands that help you? How to know if you are and how to change

be strategic in your job search, improving your job search,
Are you biting the hand that
tries to help you?
Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. 

If you are a job seeker, you want those who can help you to think highly enough of you to send you job leads, recommend you to hiring managers, give you helpful advice, and ultimately hire you (if they have that kind of power). 

If people aren't doing these things for you, it could be because you may be inadvertently alienating the very people who want to help.

This quick quiz will help you know if you are biting the hands that could help you or building relationships that could help you get a job.

1) If you were let go from a company, did you …

a. Cut off all contact with your former coworkers (after all, they are part of the regime that forced you out).
b. Keep in contact with your good friends from the company.
c. Connect on LinkedIn with all those within the company who you knew well and who respected you.
d. Reach out to all those who you knew in the company who were not actively negative toward you (including those with whom you had little contact).

The right answer is “D,” but many job seekers either cut off all contact with a former company or just keep in touch with ex-coworkers who were good friends … but that is a mistake. Far more former coworkers may be willing to help you than you realize. I've been amazed by how many more people thought highly of my work at various companies than I realized and how many were willing to help when asked.

For example, I worked at a huge company where my big boss was an East Coast, Type A personality who was transplanted to the Midwest where she was often feared and misunderstood. I thought she hated me. But years after we both left the company, she invited me to connect on LinkedIn. I begrudgingly accepted figuring it couldn't hurt … but it also couldn't help. I was wrong. The next day, she sent me a LinkedIn InMessage requesting my resume because she wanted to recommend me for a job. I complied. Two hours later, I received a call from a company due to her recommendation and I was hired within the week. If I hadn't connected with her, I would never have gotten that job.

Lesson to learn: Reach out to all former coworkers who are not actively out to hurt you.

  • Invite them to connect on LinkedIn. Add a personal note in your invitation about how you enjoyed working with them and how you would appreciate their help in finding the specific type of job you seek.
  • Ask how you can be of help to them (and then help them!).
  • Write a thoughtful recommendation about them on LinkedIn. Many will respond in kind.
  • Don’t get discouraged if some do not agree to connect. Often people do not participate in LinkedIn even if they have a LinkedIn profile.
  • Remind your connections every so often that you are job seeking and that you continue to appreciate their help.

Even better idea: If you are currently working at a place you hate or where you feel you could lose your job soon, build your connections with coworkers now so you can build beneficial relationships before you need them.

2) How do you respond to leads from friends for jobs you don’t want at their company?

a. Tell your friend why you don’t want the job.
b. Ignore the lead. (After all, your friend doesn’t really care if you don't follow up.)
c. Apply, but do the bare minimum to get it.
d. Thank your friend; ask him or her for more information about the position and company and why he/she thinks you are the right for the job. Then, if interested, apply for the job and ask your friend to give the hiring manager and recruiter a glowing recommendation about you. Or, if, after doing all this research, you are truly not interested, thank your friend, politely decline and then explain the type of job you do want.

“D” is of course the right answer, but I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard job seekers give responses like these to friends who provided them leads:

  • "I’d rather collect unemployment."
  • "It doesn't sound like something I’d be interested in (but I don’t feel like finding out for sure.")
  • "I don’t know how to do every part of the job description (and have no plans to learn them any time soon.")
  • "I’d have to work long hours."
  • "I only want to do the kind of job I had before (even if it no longer exists.")

Think about these answers! If you have given such responses, do you think the same friend will be as willing to send you a job lead the next time? If you are just rejecting or ignoring leads, or just applying for such jobs without enlisting your friend’s referral and support, you could be missing out on good jobs … and your friend's future job leads.

Lessons to learn: Don’t reject a job lead without fully exploring it and don’t dismiss friends’ effort to try to help you. Some jobs they send you may be off the mark, but the next one could be perfect.

3) Your last job ended badly. Your ego is bruised and your feelings are hurt by how you were treated. Do you:

a. Rehash every moment of mistreatment with friends, family members and like-minded former coworkers and bash the company on social networking.
b. Isolate yourself, withdrawing into your own pity party.
c. Portray yourself as the mistreated martyr.
d. Learn from the experience and then resolve to carry yourself as the consummate, positive professional despite the bad situation.

Being wronged hurts, but carrying that hurt and/or broadcasting it to others can only hurt your chances of getting hired into a new position. If you don’t stop, even your friends will start to think of you as being too angry or emotional to recommend. That’s why “D” is the only right answer to this question.

Lessons to learn: If you are angry or depressed due to past job conflicts, resolve to stop giving off negative vibes. Get help, take on a new attitude, get away from bad influences, and let the past go. No one wants to hire a person with anger issues or a bad attitude.

4) Recruiters promised to get back to you about positions for which you applied, but they never did. Do you:

a. Send them a nasty e-mail lambasting them for not contacting you.
b. Call them and demand that they call you with a response immediately.
c. Continue waiting for their call long after the due date.
d. Send them a nice email or make a friendly call, acknowledge that you know they are busy and that you’d appreciate an update on the position.

I may hear arguments about this stance, but the only right answer to this question is “D.” No good can come from telling a recruiter off for their lack of etiquette. Yes, they should let you know about the status of your application, but no, you can’t demand it because doing so can hurt your future chances with that company. You also shouldn’t wait around long past the due date if they don’t call. Muster your courage and make the call, or send a friendly e-mail which they can respond to when they get time.

Lessons to learn: Like other overworked employees in this bad economy, recruiters are often overwhelmed. They also do not make hiring decisions themselves, but instead must wait on and abide by the decisions of hiring managers and upper management. Be patient and kind in your dealings with them even if they tell you that you didn't get the job. They will remember respectful, rejected job candidates fondly (and may even recommend them for different positions).

5) Someone gives you advice that you don’t want to hear. Do you:
a. Tell them off (after all, how dare they question what you choose to do?)
b. Ignore their advice and minimize your contact with them.
c. Carefully consider their advice. Ask the opinion of others whom you trust. Contemplate what you have learned and consider making changes. Thank the person and let them know that you value their opinion. Then, if you decide to take their advice, let them know and ask for their help in improving yourself.

The correct answer is obviously "C". If you want people to give us good advice, you have to be open to taking their advice, even, if at times, it is unwelcome.

Lesson to learn: Be open to advice and kind in your response. For the most part, people are just trying to help and their advice may just help you avoid bad habits that are keeping you from landing a job.

Whether its responding to recruiters, networking with past coworkers or building your network, resolve to stop biting the hands of people who can help you and instead start building relationships that can help you land a job or get a better one

In what ways have you tried to build relationships while job seeking? Share your tips or comments using the Contact tab.

If I can be of help to you, let me know. Invite me to connect on LinkedIn. I will accept and then you can ask me questions there.


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  1. those who bite the hand that feeds often lick the boot that kicks.

  2. I never heard that saying before, John, but it's a good one.

  3. What is the Twitter handle? I just get "that page does not exist" when I click on the link


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