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Career Advice

From Marc Cenedella
Marc Cenedella

The world's leading venture capitalist of today shared the career advice below almost a decade ago. While the advice is targeted at the young, I think the experienced ought to pay heed.

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Don't ask for a job, ask for a reference

So it is with some hesitation that you pick up the phone, you dial the number, you're a little nervous and feeling a little awkward about calling your old friend (really more of an old acquaintance) in such a situation ... It's kind of embarrassing. ...

"Um, hey, Sally, it's Jim. Yeah. Well, I got cut in the most recent round of layoffs, and I was wondering if you knew of any jobs available out there. ..."

Well, Sally is going to be polite, but she is also going to try to get off the phone quicker than a balloon floating through the Denver sky (what was that all about, by the way? Bizarre!)

Why? Because we all hate to say "no." To a friend, to an acquaintance, to an old work colleague. It is as awkward to be asked as it is to ask.

What's the alternative?

Don't ask for a job, ask for a reference.

If instead you call up and say: "Hey, Sally. Yeah, I got cut in the most recent round of layoffs. And as I am looking for my next job, I sure would appreciate it if I could use you as a reference."

What's the difference between these two approaches?

One, you've let Sally know that you're looking for a job, but ...

Two, you've given her an easy way to do a good deed. It doesn't cost anything for her to say "yes," and now she feels like she's done her good deed for the day. You've actually made her day better!

Three, she might even feel a little bit honored that you want her to be a reference, which leads to ...

Four, she now feels a little bit invested in your success. Just a little bit, to be sure, but that's enough to get her creativity flowing – "you know, Jim is pretty good and I wonder if there wouldn't be a fit with the guys over at National?"

Five, you've avoided the social awkwardness of forcing Sally to say no, and ...

Six, it doesn't cost you anything either, and the same approach can be useful with all of your contacts.

In every way, it is superior to ask for a reference, not a job.

I picked up this bit of advice from my friend John Lucht in his book "Rites of Passage," and it is the best tip I've heard in my years of helping $100k+ candidates get matched up with $100k+ jobs. So I hope you find it helpful as well!

OK, Readers, I hope you'll "refer" this newsletter to your friends who are looking for a job, and have a great and very productive week with your search!

I'll be rooting for you. ...

Warmest regards,
Marc Cenedella
Marc Cenedella
Founder & CEO
TheLadders.com, Inc.

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