As the holiday season approaches, there is a lot of talk about the etiquette of gift-giving, and any lessons learned can actually have a powerful impact on your job search. To see the relevance, first consider this story that illustrates the old adage about not looking a gift horse in the mouth.
Once when I was on the way to my college dining hall, I saw a man holding a sign saying that he was homeless, had not eaten in days, and was desperate to feed his wife and two children. An hour later, as I exited the dining hall, I packed three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, three apples, and three cookies into a lunch bag and delivered them to the man. When I handed him the bag, he asked what was inside. “Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples, and cookies,” I said. To my surprise, he said that he and his family would accept only a hot meal.
Granted, it’s possible that the man or his children may have been allergic to peanut butter and jelly (or simply didn’t like them). Still, I was taken aback by his comments. Not to sound harsh or unsympathetic, but if he was truly desperate (like his sign indicated), would he really reject anything but a hot meal?
There have times when people who reach out to me for assistance have reminded me of the man with the peanut butter sandwiches. Someone will inform me that they’re “desperately looking for a new job and need assistance right away.” While I am always happy to offer them leads when I can, it amazes me how quickly people respond by telling me, “Sorry, not interested in that position.”
When someone in your network reaches out to you, even if it’s for a position that isn’t a perfect match, refrain from rejecting it out of hand. Instead, be gracious about it and ask them to keep you in mind for other future opportunities.
Does this mean that you should pursue ever particular lead? No, but if you frown on your connection now, he may doubt your motives and be less inclined to help you in the future.
Remember, effective networking comes down to strategy. Good strategy includes choosing your words wisely—both when you make the request, and when you respond. After all, if you tell your contact that you’re “desperate,” that suggests that you will consider anything and everything. When you come back and tell them you’re “not interested,” that will make them wonder just how desperate you are. Was the position that bad a fit, or were you not interested because it paid only $95,000 a year, and you want to make at least $105,000?
Plus, when you reject a job lead because you’re not interested, you could miss out on other benefits that are not readily apparent. The position may not be quite what you’re looking for now, but you never know where it might lead. Or, perhaps you can pass the lead on to someone in your network who might be a better fit. Remember a big part of networking is building relationships, and information related to vacant positions can be used to start new relationships or to strengthen existing ones.
So as the holidays approach, be thankful for every gift you receive which includes both the ugly holiday sweater and the job lead that might not be a perfect fit.
Best of luck with your job search, I know you can do it!
P.S. For more job-search advice, click here to purchase a copy of my book, The Perpetual Paycheck: 5 Secrets to Getting a Job, Keeping a Job, and Earning Income for Life in the Loyalty-Free Workplace.