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Three right and wrong ways to ask for help with your job search

April 11, 2013
trees with markers

When you can’t see the wood for the trees in your career journey, remember it’s ok to ask for help

Some of our recent blogs have suggested asking people for help with job hunting.

Don’t be daunted – this can be easier than it sounds – as long as you ask for the right sort of help.

It’s not about asking people to do stuff for you that you should be doing yourself.

Getting help looking for a job

If you’re looking for a job, a very good way to find work is to ask for help from everyone you know.

Wrong way: “Can you help me get a job?” – That’s definitely awkward.

Right way: “Do you know of anyone who’s looking for staff in this area?”

This means the heat is off the person you’re asking, but they can bear you in mind if they learn of someone who is looking for staff.

Getting help with dressing for an interview

When you go for an interview, it can be a good idea to get someone to check your outfit. Someone who likes clothes, and has a good sense of style. Maybe someone who likes shopping.

Wrong way:  “Does this make my bum look big?”

Right way: “Does this make me look like a desirable employee? Do I look like I’d fit in where I’m being interviewed?”

Employers are usually  put off by clothes that are too trendy, too revealing, too old fashioned. Anything dirty, with buttons missing or unshiny shoes is screaming “I don’t care”. Remember Dress for Success can help too. (More on Dress for Success in a future blog post.)

Getting help with improving your interview technique

If you miss out on a job, seize the opportunity to ask for help. This isn’t easy. In fact it’s hard. And harder because you’ve just been knocked back.  But if you grit your teeth and do it, you get the chance to get some specific feedback from the very sort of people you want to impress. (Although well-meaning friends and family can help you practice for interviews, unless they are in the same field as you’re aiming for, they are to some extent working in the dark.)

If you can bear to hear why you weren’t successful – you can learn what you need to improve. Plus, depending on the interviewer, you may also get some positive feedback on what you did well.

Wrong way:  “You meanies, why didn’t you pick me?!”

Right way: “I’m sorry to hear I missed out on this opportunity. Would you be willing to give me some feedback on why I was unsuccessful? Where did the successful candidate have the winning edge?”

Usually it just comes down to the successful applicant having better qualifications or experience.

But sometimes it is something about you and the way you present yourself in an interview that’s putting people off. I can assure you that this will definitely not be any fun to hear at all. However, in the book What Colour is Your Parachute, the author says that if someone has the courage to give you this honest feedback, you should thank them from the bottom of your heart.

If you do get hit by this unpleasant truth stick, pat yourself on the back for being brave. Use it as motivation to change.

And “not coming across well” may be more subtle than you imagine. In a competitive job market it’s vital that you sell yourself to potential employers. New Zealanders, who typically rate being called a skite the worst insult you can call someone, may find this very difficult – but a job interview is no place to be modest. You cannot afford to assume that your achievements will speak for themselves.

You can get help and learn how to improve your interviewing technique. There are places which will coach you. For instance, contact the Career Development Association of New Zealand for a list of members.

Many more interview tips on our website www.careers.govt.nz

Philosophical thoughts about asking for help

Asking for help is a highly underrated skill. Many confident happy successful people find it hard to ask for help. And thus they miss out on much valuable input.

Fear of asking for help is usually based on fear of looking stupid. Or being under an obligation to someone.

But look at it the other way – isn’t it nice to be asked to help someone else? Don’t you feel capable and valuable? If you never ask anyone for help, you are denying them the opportunity to enjoy that feeling.

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