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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Asking for a Job Referral

Dear Sue: I am a recent college grad looking for a job. I know several people who are executives at various levels in different companies. I feel I have enough contacts that I should be able to find a job. I know some of them better than others and am not sure how to ask them for help. Do I just e-mail them and say, ďI need a job, can you help me out?Ē or is there a more professional way to ask a contact for a job or a referral?

Ė Recent graduate

Sue Says: You are fortunate to have contacts at many levels, and wise to use them in your job search. To answer your questions; no, you shouldnít e-mail anyone to say you need a job, and yes; there is a more professional way to ask for a job or a referral.

Your contacts should be one of many tools you use in your job search, however, donít assume that because you have contacts that they will find you a job. Finding a job is up to you, and you need to use all of your resources; your contacts are one of many resources. With that said, review your contacts to determine how you think each one can help you.

Do you have a specific area of interest or qualification? Are you looking for a particular type of job? If you call someone and generically ask for help finding job, you will likely receive a generic answer.

If you really want people to help you, find out how they can help you. Do your research; find out all you can about the accomplishments of the person you are contacting and learn about the companies and industries they work in.

Before you make contact, have a specific reason for making contact. Then keep in mind that people are busy. The higher the position, the more likely you arenít the only one asking for his or her time.

Your first connection should be with a personal letter. Remind the person who you are and what your connection is; donít assume everyone will make the connection or recognize your name. After you mention that you have recently graduated and are looking for a job, it is best to identify the reason you are contacting this individual -- Do you want to learn more about the industry or company? Do you want to learn about his or her path to success? Do you want advice on how to get into the industry or company? Would you like a referral to the hiring manager or someone else? The clearer you are about your objectives, the more this person can help you. Then ask for what you want; do you want an appointment, a referral, a job or advice? Include a resume with your letter and your plan to follow up.

You can follow up with a phone call or e-mail or both. Then it becomes tricky; you may or may not receive a response. It is up to you to continue to make an effort to make a connection, but you do not want to become a pest. I know that this is most important to you, but your wants and needs may not be of concern to the person you are contacting. If you donít receive any type of response after the third try, back off. Youíve made your needs known, youíve sent out your resume, and for whatever reason, this person is not able to help you right now.

You can follow up again in the future, but leave it alone for a while. You are fortunate you have many contacts; contact them all. The more people you contact, the better your chances of success. Good luck!

Dear Sue: I recently received a "President's Award" and a $2,500 check. The president's note said that my immediate supervisor had recommended me for the award. I was acknowledged for my efforts on a project I was involved in, as well as my overall performance.

I verbally thanked my supervisor when he gave me the president's note and check, but have yet to thank the president. I am not sure what I should do. Is it proper to write a thank you note? Do I write one to both of them? And what do I thank them for Ė the award, the money or that pat on the back?

- Award winner

Sue Says: I think a thank you note is a wonderful idea. It may not be expected, but it will be appreciated. You donít need to be wordy, just be sincere. Start by thanking your supervisor and the president for acknowledging your efforts. Then tell them that you appreciate the award, which you will proudly display, and the generous check they gave you.

You donít need to do anything more, but can rest assured you will have validated their decision. Not everyone would think to write a note of thanks; and the fact that you did is a display of your character. Keep up the good work; I have a feeling there are more awards in store for you.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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