All job-hunting correspondence is important, but the letter you
send your friends is absolutely critical.
Here's why: When you're in a job-hunt you're selling personal
services--what you can do--something intangible. People buy
services based on trust. Marketing personal services is not like
marketing a product. Shoppers buy products knowing they can return
them if dissatisfied. But companies can't return employees who
fail on the job. They have to terminate them and start over, both
of which are costly. That's why employers are so cautious.
Crucial hiring decisions are generally made by a team. Key
managers meet to define the duties and responsibilities and decide
what sort of person they want. Then they ask, "Who do we know
that could fill this slot?" Most of the time, someone in the
group knows someone. That candidate is interviewed first, given
preferential treatment, and usually hired.
The moral of the story is that managers hire their
friends--known quantities, not shots-in-the-dark. No one likes to
hire strangers--there's too much at stake. One wrong employment
decision can ruin a manager's career.
||What does this mean to you?
It means your next job is probably going to come from one of
your personal friends or business acquaintances--or else from one
of their friends. Not from a recruiter. Not from a newspaper ad.
Not from knocking on doors or pounding the pavement.
Your friends are your strongest marketing allies. That's why
it's important to involve them in your campaign, not just notify
them. Most job-seekers simply call and say, "I've lost my
job. Let me know if you hear of anything." The friend says,
"Sure I will." And that's the end of it. The phone never
rings. Friends want to help, but they have to know exactly what
kind of help you need. Tell them in a "friendship
||Who are your friends?
When I say "friends," I mean "everyone you
know." Not just your closest friends, but anyone who knows
your name. I mean your contact network, both personal and
business--especially people you've worked with on projects. Begin
your marketing campaign by making a list of your friends. Use the
following checklist to help you remember names. Record all names.
Don't prejudge people, guessing which ones can help you (you'll
often be wrong). Don't rule anyone out prematurely.
Go as far back as high school, even grade school. List your old
college classmates and roommates. Look at your Christmas/Chanukah
card list. Write names until your mind goes blank. Then stop and
rest, and begin again.
||The Friendship Checklist
(uncles, aunts, cousins, distant relatives)
significant other's family and friends
plumbers, electricians, other tradespeople
fellow classmates, former college professors
of your children's friends
leaders (pastor, priest, rabbi)
and former employers
employees (your peer group)
staff, editors, and reporters of your local newspaper
clients, customers, buyers, suppliers,
and sales representatives
vacationers or travelers
of Commerce members
cellmates (just kidding)
of your parents
waitpeople, bartenders, and hosts
person at the dry cleaners
(yes, your parents!)
Many job-hunters resist doing this exercise. They don't see the
point. They find it time-consuming and come up with a variety of
objections, like these:
|I don't want to use my friends.
||Contact them and give them
something: a journal article, an idea, an invitation to
lunch, a compliment, a good listening. Find out how
|All my friends are in Chicago
and I want to work in Dallas.
||People in Chicago have family
and friends in Dallas.
|I hate to call people and ask
||Same as answer to "I
don't want to use my friends", above.
|I can't remember all these
||Yes you can. You just don't
|I would be embarrassed to say
||Say something like "I have
some great news. I'm finally leaving HighTek--it's about
time. Their accounting system is snarled up, and I want to
get into a company where I can bring the latest computer
solutions into the picture. This is great! I've never been
more excited in my life. I can't sleep at night. I feel
like a kid again."
|I would feel funny writing a
letter to people I see in person all the time.
||Don't write them a letter. Talk
with them face-to-face.
||Friends are important
The following stories show the importance of collecting the
names of friends, even if it doesn't make logical sense.
It doesn't matter where your friends live
Ken Granger was a senior data processing manager in Denver.
He wanted to relocate to Dallas because his wife had family
there. I asked Ken to list his friends so he could send them
something. He resisted doing the assignment.
His reasoning went like this: "All my friends live in
Chicago. I want to work in Dallas. Why should I write to people
who can't help me?"
Finally, after three weeks, Ken made his list. We sent a
letter, and guess what? One of his contacts in Chicago had a
brother who was president of a data processing company in
Dallas. Ken flew down to interview and was hired. That's the
kind of thing that often happens in networking.
"You never know how many friends you have until you
rent a place at the beach."
Quoted by Wayne Norris in
You Don't Have to Be Crazy to Work Here...But It Sure Helps
Don't guess who your friends are
I've seen hundreds of people contact their network to ask for
help, and I see two patterns.
First, friendship letters always work. You get some positive
response from some of your friends. That's a big boost when
you're feeling down. Second, it's impossible to accurately
predict who will help you and who won't. You'll be wrong 50
percent of the time--maybe more.
It's interesting, and sometimes disconcerting, to find out
who can be counted on when you need a helping hand. Some of your
"dearest friends" will let you down, and some people
you have written off will come out of the woodwork and shower
you with badly needed love and attention.
||Your friends will always help
I contacted my friends--especially former clients--in writing
this book. I was announcing the project, asking for permission to
use their materials, and looking for advice and ideas. I was
reaching out for support.
I was surprised at the positive responses. They really lifted
me and made me feel the whole project was worthwhile. There was
one letter I will never forget.
Kay Tubbs said, "My advice: Go for it! It's perfect. I
would buy it (and recommend it) in a heartbeat. It would also
solve a personal problem I have, of not being physically close
enough to utilize your services. (It's probably a good thing--I'd
be tempted to mortgage the house to hire you as a permanent 'life
consultant.')" That felt really good.
You'll find that most of your friends will help you, too, and
their heartfelt response may surprise you.
||The world's greatest letter
I've always encouraged clients to contact their friends to ask
for advice and ideas. They used a variety of letters, and I'm
certain many of them worked. But one day in a workshop, I found
the ultimate "friendship letter." It was a work of art.
The tone was right: It was warm and friendly and not too pushy
or boring. It made you want to help.
I began distributing Dale Kreeger's letter in my classes.
Students used it as a guide. (As you will see, many of the letters
in this book incorporate some of Dale's words.) Dale
was an accountant in a large oil company. At age 55 he was asked
to take early retirement before he was ready.
letter" penned by Dale Kreeger may be one of the best
job-hunting letters ever written, because it can be modified
slightly and used by nearly everyone. Dale first sent his letter
to friends to look for a "real job." When he decided to
go into business for himself, he rewrote the letter to sell
consulting services. Many letters on this website borrow words
Since this collection was first published, several English
teachers have sent me copies of Dale's letter dripping in red ink.
They claim it's full of grammatical errors, and fault me for
publishing it as a good example. They're correct: it's not
grammatically flawless. However, the thoughts and feelings come
through, and that's what sells. Don't be concerned if your letter
isn't perfect, as long as it's heartfelt.
Try to make your letter sound personal, one-of-a-kind, even if
it will be mailed to several hundred friends. It takes time to
write a "universal personal," but it's worth it. Don't
send letters that sound cold and distant.
What makes this letter work?
humorous ("not ready to be put out to pasture
everything a great letter should be.
But as good as it is, it can still be improved. The letter
doesn't specify exactly what kind of job Dale wants. Friends can't
help very well unless they know exactly, clearly, and specifically
what kind of help you need. The more specific, the better.
Some job-seekers object to being specific. They want to keep
their options open. They reason this way: "If I tell people
exactly what I want, I might miss out on other things I might
That's true. But, on the other hand, if you tell people exactly
what you want, you might get your ideal job. Wouldn't that be
||The anatomy of a friendship letter
If you write a letter to your network, limit yourself to about
250 words. You can use Dale and Jonathan's letters as models or
you can invent your own. If you do your own letter--and I
recommend that--here are five steps you should take:
Establish rapport (about 20 words)
Explain the situation (about 30 words)
Even if you left under the most unpleasant circumstances, try
to frame the change in a positive light: "We were purchased
by a Fortune 500 company, there was considerable overlap in
staffing, the company was reorganized, 20 managers were laid
off, and I lost my job at the end of December."
Tell them what you want (about 30 words)
This is your chance to paint a clear but brief picture of
your ideal, perfect job. The more detail the better. Mention
possible job title, size and philosophy of company, management
style, preferred industries, duties and responsibilities,
geographic preferences or restrictions--in short, anything that
clarifies. Your friends can't help you unless they know what
fits; and they don't know what fits unless you tell them!
For example: "My expertise would best fit the
high-reliability electronics industry, such as medical,
automotive, industrial, or computers--although I also have
considerable background in the metals and machining industries.
Most of my experience with Boeing was related to electronics,
but included materials such as glass and graphite epoxy
composites, adhesives, coatings, and plastics.
"I would prefer to remain in the Chicago metro area or
relocate to the Pacific Northwest. I am most interested in a
company in the startup phase or in a period of rapid growth. My
recent experience with ChicagoTek during a 400% increase in
business was very rewarding, and I find myself looking for
another similar company."
Ask for advice and ideas (about 20 words)
End on a warm, friendly, enthusiastic note
"Should you be free in the near future, Jim and I would
like to have you come to dinner."