I have worked in Human Resources for 5 years and I am really proud of the work that I do; however, I found myself recently lying about my title and job duties to acquaintances. I find myself constantly being asked to help find people a job. I started working at a world renowned organization about 18 months ago and these requests are coming up a lot. So much so that friends of friends are starting to contact me. I’ve had two recent experiences where I was told off and made to seem like a terrible person because I didn’t help enough in landing those people a job. I guess providing links to job postings and offering suggestions to beef up resumes wasn’t what they were looking for. Any advice on how to handle these situations?
Well, it goes with the territory with just about any job. I get tons of requests from friends and family and friends of family, but to be honest, last week my 7 year old took a header on his bicycle into a wooden fence–which snapped in half due to the force of his head–and instead of taking him to the emergency room, I took him to our scheduled 4th of July party. Why? Because I knew our friend, Curtis, MD, would be there. He checked out my kid and then we barbecued things. Because, what’s more American than grilled food?
And so, while you and I might complain, sometimes you probably even hit up some of your friends for help. Here are some things to think about.
People don’t want help, they want solutions. I don’t do resume reviews for random readers, but I do for friends and relatives. I’ve probably done hundreds of these over the years. What I do is go over the resume and tell them where they can make improvements. I never actually rewrite the resume, though. I’ll then say, “If you want to make the changes I suggested, then send it back, I’ll give it a second look.” I can count on one hand the number of people who did this.
Everyone else was just hoping that I’d redo their resume for them. Not gonna happen. So, they disappear. The same thing with most referrals. I’ll introduce people and they don’t follow up. It happens. People think we have magical job hunting abilities, but we don’t. We may have more insight, but there’s still a ton of work and the only person who can do it is the job hunter.
You need to maintain your status as a friend first. Be clear when someone asks for help, just say what you can do. Don’t say, “Yes, I’ll help you get a job,” say, “I’ll submit your resume to the hiring manager, but since I haven’t worked with you, I can just recommend you as a friend. It’s up to the hiring manager to proceed.” Or, “Gosh, I’d love to help you, but I don’t have any special insights to that company. Have you thought about seeing if you have any LinkedIn connections?”
Then commiserate about how job hunting is awful. Maybe share some of your own job hunting horror stories. Don’t ever give the idea that you can get someone a job. Do the things that friends do, not the things that headhunters do.
Recognize that not everyone who claims to be a friend is a friend. 6 years ago, we moved from Pennsylvania to Switzerland. Switzerland has a high cost of living, and so we now live in a 900 square foot apartment. This was a huge change from our 3700 square foot home in PA. This small apartment means we have no guest room. No spare beds. A couple of couches, that’s it. When we first moved, people started crawling out of the woodwork. Cousins I hadn’t seen since they were in diapers. People I hadn’t talked to in 15 years. They all were dying to come to Switzerland. I responded to each the same way, “We’d love to see you! Unfortunately, we don’t have room for you to stay with us, but I can recommend a hotel or a youth hostel and we’d love to have you over for an authentic Swiss dinner!” None of these people actually ended up taking trips to Switzerland. We were only on their list because they thought they could get a European vacation without paying for accommodations.
You’ll find that people who want you to help them find a job are the same way. And, who can blame them? When you’re looking for a job, having an expert to help is awesome. And you can help them if you want because you’re nice. But, they aren’t your friends. Don’t forget that. Your friends are the people who would happily help you and who won’t get angry if you can’t.
Helping is difficult. Helping isn’t always as easy as being nice. Lots of people who would benefit from your expertise wouldn’t dare ask for help. Lots of people who won’t benefit from your expertise get angry at you for trying your best because your best didn’t land them their dream job. Some people you help, and pull in favors, and invest your time, and then they quit the new job after 2 weeks because the boss meanly wanted them to arrive on time every day. It’s frustrating.
Don’t give up, though. You help because you are a nice person. What people do with your help is their business.