Making This Phone Call Could Change Your Career

Gail Belsky, job seeker

Over the last six weeks, I've consulted with four different experts about my career-reinvention journey-and they've all been very helpful. But I've avoided approaching the people who could probably help me the most: my professional contacts.

It's not logical. I'm blogging about my job quest for the whole world to read, but contacting people directly to say I'm looking for work feels awkward ... and embarrassing. Since I started writing this blog, however, I've gotten more calls and emails about freelance work than I have in months -- including some that have the potential of being long-term or even full-time. Each one originated from someone I've worked with in the past.

Of course, had I reached out to my network a while ago, I might already have a new job. Maybe I'd reach out now, if I knew what to say. I went back to the two career coaches (and AOL Jobs bloggers) who have helped me, Marty Nemko and J.T. O'Donnell, for their advice. They offered two very different approaches.

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1. Marty Nemko: Cast a wide net, and get straight to it.

The strategy: Make a list of as many people who like you as possible, even if you haven't talked to them in ages. Then, depending on what you think will be most comfortable for both of you, call, email, or arrange to meet face-to-face.

Words to say: "You might wonder why I'm calling. I've been an accountant for a long time, and have always gotten very good evaluations. But my boss just outsourced all of our jobs, so I'm looking for a new job. They say you should contact everyone you like, even distant ties. By any chance, might you know someone who might need a good accountant?"

The rationale: "Studies show that you're more likely to get a useful lead from a distant tie than from a close one because you probably have many more distant connections than close ties."

More:Creative Ways To Land The Interview

2. J.T. O'Donnell: Bring something to the party, instead of just taking.

The strategy: Make a list of people you want to contact, and think about an industry issue you've discussed before. Find a few recent stories about the topic, and then email each contact with links to the stories.

Words to say: "This article reminded me of our conversation about the problem with outsourcing jobs. I would love to catch up with you and hear what you are focused on in 2013."

Her rationale: "I don't think any job seeker likes to lead with, "I'm looking for work, can you help me? By initiating the conversation this way, you are providing some value, and easing into a conversation about their work. This will lead to questions about your work, which will enable you to share that you are actively seeking new opportunities."

How about you ... have you contacted people you know to ask them for job leads?

How did you do it?

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