Sending Out an SOS: How to Ask for Job Search Help

Getting off the dime and asking for help in a job search is often the hardest thing that people encounter.

It doesn’t have to be.

Here’s how:

  1. Be clear about what’s going on. If it’s better spoken, make a call and talk directly. It’s almost always best to make a call and talk directly with close contacts and colleagues before casting a wider net via a broadcast note. Do both quickly and effectively.
  2. Let people know what you offer (e.g. your value proposition) and the types of things you’re seeking.
  3. Provide clear contact information (simple, but people sometimes don’t) and for heaven’s sakes follow-up when people reach out to help you.

Here’s an example from a former colleague. Jim Rettela was one of the hardest working, most conscientious, high integrity people who worked for me when I taught and helped run student housing programs at the University of Southern California. It was no surprise that he went on to a career that includes leadership roles at Proctor & Gamble, Clorox, Borden and most recently Schwarzkopf & Henkel (the knives people) in the following years.

Here’s Jim’s note that he sent his LinkedIn contacts this morning as part of his job search:

“Subject: Career Opportunities Exploration-Networking request

I hope this note finds you and your family in good health as we have now passed the halfway mark in 2012 and 2013 is bearing down on us.

As you may already know, my division of Schwarzkopf & Henkel has experienced many changes over the years. Recently, we announced the sale of four core brands, and with this sale, Henkel will support a new sales structure that will align geographically around customers. My Director Channel Management position was eliminated based on the revised sales structure and new organization model. Yes, I am now an “Executive in Transition.”

I am sending this note to let you know that I am searching for the next opportunity. I am seeking a senior level sales/leadership role targeting Director/VP Sales/GM opportunities within consumer packaged goods or related industry. Consultative/start up/ownership opportunities are also a consideration on a short or longer term basis/need. Heidi and I are open to relocate from Southern Cal.

Over the years, I have intentionally built a vibrant executive network across several industries so that I could help you directly, or indirectly through my contacts. Let me know if you would be open to a brief networking contact and I will give you a call. Good selling and let me know what I can do for you!


Like Willa Seldon’s landing message (see Managing Your Career: How to Say Hello)  when she moved from a CEO role at a leading SF non-profit at to take a partner’s role at the Bridgespan Group, knowing how to execute on some predictable events in your career is the sort of stuff that often separatethe successful from the struggling.

Jim’s note speaks to a crispness he brings to his work, and a way of managing his career that you can bring to your career.


Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

SOS photo credit  – Wikipedia

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