THE BLOG
11/02/2009 03:34 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Users in Today's Job Market


Last week, I received a random email from a woman I met briefly a few years ago. Although I made a few attempts to stay in touch with her over the years, she never returned my emails or telephone calls. However, now she was ready to be best buddies and even workmates. Her email was all about her and how I could help her--now that she was out of a job. This woman, my friends, was a job market user.

We all know users. They only contact you because they want something. And of course, when they contact you, you have no idea of who this person is because you have not heard from him or her since the last time they asked you for a favor. They come out of obscurity when they hear good news about you and shamelessly find ways to capitalize off of your good fortune. They only care about one thing: themselves.

With unemployment hovering around 10%, I'm sure that many of you have been contacted by someone you have not heard from in a while yet brazenly asks for your help with finding a job. Aside from being a decent human being, what would motivate you to do anything to help a user?

While there are numerous steps one must take to make the transition from being a user, these are the first few steps on the path to being endeared. Feel free to share these steps the next time a user contacts you:

Give people a reason to help you
If you reach out to someone, you should offer to help them in some way, either professionally or personally. For example, invite someone to an event, lunch, or your house for dinner. Once you let your new friend know that you are job hunting, you shouldn't even have to ask for help. They will want to do something to help you without you having to ask.

Maintain your relationships
Calling someone out of the blue is your first mistake. Try to find a way to stay in touch with the people you know not only because they can help you out in a pinch but because there is a genuine interest in furthering a relationship. For about $30 a month--less than six Big Macs a month--you can send an e-newsletter to your friends and family on a periodic basis. While it is not as personal as calling or emailing a person individually, it makes it possible to stay in touch without spending all day on the telephone or computer.

Be irresistible even while you still have a job

Networking for your next job starts when you are still gainfully employed. Years ago, when I was conducting research for a presentation, I reached out to a colleague and asked if I could interview him. He flat out said "No." Three years later, he was fired and reached out to me for legal and job search help. He called me almost everyday. Although I had every reason to avoid him, I figured out another way to get rid of this guy. I told him that I would help him out only if he promised to help the next person who asked for his help. As I expected, I never heard from him again.