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(CareerBuilder.com) -- Friends provide us many things: love, support, camaraderie. Perhaps the most valuable thing they offer us is advice. They're who we turn to when we need guidance on life, love and everything in between. But there is one subject on which to tread carefully when we're seeking advice: job hunting.
Friends can prove to be an invaluable resource in your job search because they know the real you, says Rich Gee, executive career coach for Connecticut-based Rich Gee Coaching.
"Ask [friends] for some positive feedback about you. Not only will it make you feel good, it will highlight your strengths," Gee says. "Try a SWOT analysis on you. What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? Since you are marketing yourself to the working world, use a good marketing tool."
While friends can accelerate your job search, they can also severely hold you back -- and ruin your friendship in the process. You can potentially waste time asking for help from friend who lacks the trust and credibility you need to help get you a job or positively influence the process, says Shawn Desgrosellier, partner of Texas-based recruiting firm, Kaye/Bassman International.
"You risk exposing your compensation and truth behind your performance and expertise at previous employers if not favorable," he says. "You can risk your friendship if you are hired with their help and the position or company is not a match for you."
Before consulting your friends' wealth of job info and contacts, consider these dos and don'ts of asking friends for job help:
DO make a list of key friends and how you can leverage their contact circle, Gee says. Desgrosellier suggests asking the following questions to draw potential contacts: What companies are your friends from college working at these days? Who do you know at the gym and where do they work? What do the parents of your children's friends do?
DON'T ask friends for résumé assistance, unless they are very skilled at writing, formatting and proofreading, Desgrosellier suggests. "I suggest hiring a professional," he says. Gee contends: "Isn't it worth the $300-$500 to catch that $100K position?"
DO be positive when you mention anything about work or the job hunt, Gee says. "If you sound negative, depressed or angry -- no one really wants to help you, they will only try to comfort, and that is not what you need right now," Gee says.
DON'T let your friends take charge. Friends will give you their opinion on what you need to do and direct you somewhere they think you need to go -- not where you want to go, Gee says. "Instead, tell them you need their help and show them explicitly how they can help you," Gee says. "That way, you are in charge of your job search, and you are not allowing them to hold your hand."
DO be proactive. Develop a communication plan, mapping out who you'll leverage, how you'll communicate, what you'll say and how you'll follow up, Gee suggests. Doing so allows you to hone your message into concise statements. "Your friends will be immediately impressed with your direction and will willingly provide the required info or contacts," he says.
DON'T take the job searching process lightly -- especially with friends and family, Desgrosellier says. "Once a referral is made, in many cases you have more to lose than you do to gain by helping a friend or family member find suitable employment," he says. "It is like the old saying about loaning money to friends and family -- more negative consequences can stem from the good deed than positive in more scenarios."
DO ask your friends questions when asking for information or referrals. Gee suggests questions like:
Do you know anyone in the ___ industry? "You will be surprised what people they come up with," Gee says. "It's an open question that allows them to tap into their mental rolodex."
Can you give them a call to let them know I'll be calling? "Warm referrals are 100 times better than cold calls," Gee says.
What keeps you at (name of company)? "This is a key question. It will make them stop, think and answer honestly. It gives you a clear idea of where you might be going," Gee says.
DON'T ask for advice unless you have no idea, clue or direction about your job search. "You are looking for warm referrals -- people that know that they can either hire you or point you in the right direction. Ask for specific opportunities that they might know of, specific companies, specific people," Gee says.
DO network, schmooze and connect, Gee says. "Friends are invaluable resources in helping you do this. They multiply your search circle of influence exponentially. Used effectively, with a well-planned strategy, you will find that your job search will provide fruitful dividends, better pay and a shorter employment period." E-mail to a friend
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