How to Ask Friends and Family for Help With Your Career

Fear of rejection might prevent you from seeking the assistance you need.

By + More

It's time you toughen up a bit. Rejection is something we are all afraid of! Seldom will you experience true rejection. The people you reach out to aren’t saying “No, I won’t help you.” Your friends, family and colleagues probably just don’t know how to respond or are busy and forget to respond or follow through. This isn’t rejection. It just means they're too busy or are thinking “I am not comfortable saying yes at this moment in time.”

Here are five ways you can face the fear of rejection and move beyond.

1. Risking it all. First, ask yourself what is the worst thing that can happen if you take a risk? Honestly, you have nothing to lose. Why won’t you pick up the phone and call that person you want to meet, follow up on that lead or reach out to a past co-worker?

Is it because you aren’t sure what you’ll say? You’ll never know unless you take a chance. Create a script so you know how you will introduce yourself and start the call. Also use an outline for the call so you can keep track of what you're specifically asking of them. Test your opening on a friend first; you’ll feel a lot better. The more often you do this, the easier it will get. It just takes practice.

2. Be prepared for objections. It's your responsibility to be very clear about the type of help you need. Your requests should be pleas for information, not begging for a job. Have you heard “I don’t know of any job openings” or “I don’t do the hiring?” If so, your request for help wasn't clear enough. But as you work through this, anticipate that some people will say those things. Your response could be: “That’s too bad, but I am actually looking for people to have a conversation with so that I can learn more about XYZ company. If you were me, who do you think I should speak to?”

3. Keep control. When you allow someone to do a favor for you, you lose control of timing. In many cases it's better for you to offer to do the legwork or make the call. Otherwise, your well-meaning friend may forget to make that introduction or forward your résumé along. It isn’t that she doesn’t want to help, she just has a different set of priorities than you do. It may take days or weeks for her to take action. Offer to de-burden her so you won’t feel like a pest when you have to call in a week or two, because that is what’s likely to happen.

4. Persistent vs. pest. Don’t let a lack of response to a phone call or email send you into a tailspin. Try again. There’s a fine line between being persistent versus being a pest, but remember, no two people see things quite the same way. Do not use your own particular filter to judge what others might see as pesky. If you're sincere in your request and it isn’t demanding, keep at it. Alter between phone and email or elicit advice from a mutual acquaintance.

5. Roll with the punches. Instead of letting your emotions get the best of you, learn to roll with the punches. Getting comfortable with change can be more difficult for many. Maybe now is the time for you to think about taking a temporary or contract assignment, to keep you on your toes. One of the best ways to build tolerance is to throw yourself in, feet first. Today’s workplaces require flexibility and resiliency, and this would be a good time to learn to work through it.

If you could control that sense of immediacy or successful outcome from any of the situations mentioned, wouldn’t you feel better about making the change? Instead of responding to your situation, proactively attack it.

Now, it is up to you.

Take Action

This week, take small steps outside of your comfort zone. Push yourself and see what happens. Here are some suggestions:

  • Call every name you're given this week.
  • Ask two people to meet with you to discuss what they may know about companies you're interested in working for.
  • Find the hiring managers’ contact information for the jobs you’ve applied to and call them to ask where they are in the review process.
  • Call the people that you're waiting to get back to you. Don’t wait another day.

Hannah Morgan writes and speaks on career topics and job search trends on her blog Career Sherpa. She co-authored “Social Networking for Business Success,” and has developed and delivered programs to help job seekers understand how to look for work better.