Activating the best of you!

The art of asking family and friends for jobs without feeling awkward.

Dear Coach Joan,

I’m in an active job search mode and having a hard time finding leads. The people in my employment support group suggest I contact my former co-workers, friends and family to help in making connections to job opportunities. I tend to be a little shy but I know it’s important to ask for help. I’m hoping you can suggest effective ways for me to ask for some assistance with an outreach letter or email.

Thank you,


Dear Susan,

I’m sorry to hear you’re having a tough time finding job leads. And your employment support group is correct; many people find job opportunities by reaching out to those they already know. And the most effective way is to give your contacts clear information about what you have to offer to potential employers, and some clear parameters of what you are looking for.

People often assume that others know what their skills and talents are, but typically that is not the case. Even when we have friends who’ve worked at a company for many years, we often only know that they are in ‘marketing’ or ‘sales’ or ‘manufacturing’ but we often know little more than that. It’s vital that your outreach letter be very clear about your work related experiences and, briefly, how they translate into value-add skills for an employer. And I suggest you include a recommendation or two to show that you have been well regarded in the workplace. Sometimes I even recommend adding a list of  target companies or organizations where you’d like to work. Always try to add a personal note in each letter. People appreciate and respond to personalization; i.e.,  reminding them what a great time you enjoyed at their son’s play,  asking about their new job, commenting on something new in your shared community, etc.

The guiding principle in doing an outreach letter is to:

Give your friends and family the vital information they need to best connect you with opportunities.

Here is a sample letter from a client who is is a recent college graduate:

Hi   ______________,

I hope this message finds you well.

I am currently in full-time job seeking mode having recently graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obisbo, summa cum laude. And I just learned that over 70% of new employment opportunities are found through one’s network. Therefore, I am reaching out to you in the hopes that you might have some solid work connections for me.

Thank you in advance.

As you probably know, I participated in three excellent business internships during college. They were excellent because I had the chance to really make a difference, and I learned a lot about myself as a contributor to the business world.

I’ve had the good fortune to see that I love working in a dynamic business environment and colleagues and managers consistently gave me feedback that:

1) I posses a unique combination of both business and technology capabilities and passion.

2) I quickly adapt, learn and contribute in new teams and new work environments.

3) I have a natural ability to understand technical products and clearly communicate information in a compelling way.

Examples of how I demonstrate the above can be found in my portfolio (attached).

How Can YOU Help the Susan Thomas Employment Campaign?

If you are aware of an opportunity, or have contacts within an organization that you could put me in touch with, I would greatly appreciate it. I am currently seeking a role that allows me to contribute my sales and marketing skills, while also utilizing my analytical and writing skills as demonstrated in my 4.0 coursework average. I have always been committed to both quality and hard work in every endeavor I’ve taken on.

I have attached my Resume Portfolio, as well as a link to my LinkedIn profile which provides several recommendations.

While my own job search is important, so is reconnecting with friends and family. Even if you are not aware of any opportunities, please feel free to message me back with what is new in your life!

I look forward to hearing back from you.

With appreciation,


After drafting your letter and preparing the attachments, you want to make a complete list of all possible friends, family and co-workers. Even include community connections like medical professionals, doctors and dentists, hairdressers, insurance brokers, teachers and professors; people who’ve known you over the years. And make sure to include all family friends and even neighbors. One client sent her “Friends and Family Letter” to everyone on her street and it turned out that a neighbor worked at one of the companies that was on her target list. She was connected to the person who became her new manager!

And send the letters out in bunches, about 5-10 at a time. You want to stagger your outreach so your follow up is manageable. And it is vital to follow up with a phone call or email with each person. I suggest  waiting about 3-5 days to do the follow up. Sometimes people have received your letter but it’s not until you contact them that they take the time to focus on connections for you.

In real estate the key words are: Location, location, location.

In job searching the key words are: People, people, people.

Good luck with your Friends and Family Outreach letter and let me know how it goes.


Coach Joan

What to do when your performance review feels unfair?

Dear Joan,

I am confused and angry over my recent performance review. For the first time in my 10 year career I was judged as not meeting expectations. This came as a total surprise, a disappointment, and a deviation from the past two annual reviews that were done by two separate managers. I had always been evaluated as meeting or exceeding expectations.  I’ve worked at my  company as a business professional for the past three years. I’ve had the same job with the same people, and have had the same input from my coworkers, vendors and partners, so I find it difficult to understand this new manager’s assessment. What am I not seeing? What do you advise I do now? At my company, once you are rated as underperforming, you are put on a performance plan, and if you do not improve within six months, you can be terminated.


Dear Lisa,

First off, I am so sorry to hear that you received  a negative review. That in itself is disturbing, especially when it’s the first time in 10 years, but when it comes as a complete surprise it is especially troublesome. The first thing it tells me is that there was a lack of communication between you and your current manager. You didn’t say how long you’ve worked for this individual, but it sounds like a lot of assuming was going on. Whenever you get a new manager in the future, please, make no assumptions. Plan and schedule a talk with the manager to find out their expectations, preferences, subjective measures of success and pose specific questions on the behaviors, attitudes and style of past direct reports who’ve done very well with them. And set up regular meetings to get feedback.

You also might consider going over your past, positive reviews with the new manager so they can see how you’ve been evaluated before.  The other thing you might consider is to provide your manager with weekly status reports and ask to have periodic one-on-ones  and always ask for feedback on your performance. This is key, Lisa. communication.

Even if there are very clear evaluative guidelines in your company, there are always subjective assessments going on. For instance, I know a manager who gives a lot of importance to how orderly and neat his subordinates manage their work space. Another manager cares a lot about the technical knowledge of her direct reports.  And another manager expects highly analytical work to back up all decisions. In other words, there really are personal preferences that go into performance evaluations. And in this case I get the impression that you are not aware of what your manager’s preferences are.

OK, so perhaps you and others have made that mistake. But now it’s time to move forward. I would schedule time with your manager now, as soon as possible. Tell him/her that you were surprised by the review and in the future really want to make sure you are on the same page. Ask them to kindly discuss their criteria for your assessment.  Depending on how that conversation goes, you might decide that you clearly need to move on and look for a new job. You might need to look both inside and outside the company.

You also might consider asking your manager to have your assigned human resource person sit in on your performance plan, identifying and specifying how you will be measured in the next six month period. This is vital as it could cost you your job.

Again, be forewarned that this manager and you might be oil and water, a bad fit. I always advise my clients that when they get the sense that they are not being understood well, or just not on the same wavelength, consider a job change – proactively. The fact is that managers have power over you, and your career, it is important to sometimes take preventative measures and extricate yourself from a bad situation; even though it not your fault! Life is not always fair and bad managers can happen to good people ! Sometimes you need to cut your losses and move forward quickly to avoid bigger problems down the road. If you catch it early on you may be able to get a transfer to a better manager in your current company. One of my clients knew it was very bad situation but she kept trying to gain her manager’s favor. Sadly, she was terminated from the company and had to start a tougher job search, in a weaker position, coming from being unemployed.

In any event, I would personally be looking for a new position both inside and outside the company. I would notify my closest and most trusted colleagues and former managers of your new job search and explain that after three years you are ready to explore new opportunities. I would also line up references and make sure your Linkedin profile is up to date and has at least 2-3 positive references.

And please remember that the best way to avoid surprises at a review is to proactively communicate with your manager.

Please let me know how it goes.


Coach Joan