In addition to my usual career-related activities, I have been working overtime lately talking with friends, family members and colleagues who have recently lost their jobs or are concerned about where the job market and economy are going. I’ve decided to share some of the things I’m telling them with you, so that we can all join in on spreading good career karma.
We all love bitching about email, but when it comes to simple and free tools that can jumpstart a career, nothing beats it. Here’s three easy things you can do with email to help your career, or the career of someone you care about.
1. Write a referral email, or ask someone to write one for you.
Is there anyone you’ve used recently hired for a service who did such a good job that you’d be thrilled to give a recommendation to friends or colleagues? If so, take a few minutes to write an email telling a few hand-selected contacts just how great the experience was. Here’s a sample: ”I’m writing to tell you about Marci Alboher, whom I recently hired to give a lecture at my organization’s annual retreat. She was, without question, the most inspiring speaker we have ever heard. I recommend her without hesitation. If you should ever have the need for a speaker, definitely consider hiring her.”
Include contact information or a website for the person you’re recommending, and tell your contacts to feel free to contact the person directly. While this approach can work for anyone looking for new opportunities, it is ideally suited for anyone in a client or service oriented field — lawyers, hair stylists, interior designers, personal trainers, massage therapists, lawyers, accountants, freelance writers/editors/web designers/graphic artists, etc.
Once you’ve composed the email, hand select contacts who might need the service or skill-set provided by the person you’re recommending. Go through your contact list alphabetically thinking carefully about the kind of people you include on your list. Pay special attention to the connectors in your midst — those people who know a lot of other people and who will take the time to forward the email even if it isn’t of use to them personally. Finally, this only works if your praise is genuine. The goal is to help everyone in the loop — the person you’re recommending and the person who’s doing the hiring.
The next best thing? A recommendation on LinkedIn.
This obviously works both ways. Why not ask a few key clients or colleagues to write one of these for you? In fact, if you are in a client service business, you can make a habit of asking for such a referral at the close of every project.
2. Forward the email.
This one is even easier. The next time you get an email asking if you know anyone looking for a dog-walker, estate-planning lawyer, website designer, carpenter etc., take several minutes to go through your contacts (just like in #1) and forward the email to a hand-selected group of people who might need the services of the sender. Before sending it off, add a personal note from you explaining how you know the person and why you’d recommend her. Again, only do this if you can genuinely recommend the person.
And again, this one goes both ways. Consider writing an email describing your services and availability and sending it to a few carefully selected contacts with a request to send it along to people in their network who might be interested in your talents. Make sure your note clearly describes what you do, includes your contact details (and a link to a website or online profile if you have one), and any other information that would help people evaluate you (testimonials, for example.)
3. Consider an email signature.
When I decided I wanted to privately coach writers, the first thing I did was add the words “writing coach” to my email signature. Immediately I started getting inquiries about my coaching services. It functioned like a free advertisement.
Have you found any other quick and easy ways to use email to help yourself or others get work? If so, share them in the comments.