So a client of mine is looking for work, and there is a position available that is a great fit for her. There is a particular process for applying, and the competition can be stiff; so we looked at what can give her the edge.
We realized a personal connections to the hiring committee would make a difference. She could get a better sense of what the committee wants, and position herself as the person best suited to provide that.
So she started looking, and quickly found two people with connections in the right places. She was really proud (as she should be) and sent me a message that she just asked one to "help out." If you take a moment to think about that request though, it is unlikely to get her much help, and might even work against her.
She didn't actually ask this person to do any specific thing. Maybe he'll pick up the phone, speak to his contacts, and call my client back with a bunch of information she already has, and feel that he has already "helped." When she gets around to making a specific request, he might realize it was more than he had expected and not come through, or feel like he's already done his part.
The first thing she needs is a plan. She needs to know what is necessary for the application and by when. Then she can make a list of the things she might want to know: who are the various stakeholders, who is on the selection committee, what are they seeking, what is going on inside the department, what do people wish would be there, what people will most miss in the person she is replacing, just to throw out a handful.
Next, she should look to see what her friend can provide, and when it would make the most impact. Only then should she approach him and ask him to help, and the request should look something like this:
I'll be applying to X in 6 weeks. It's a really great job and I think you could make a huge difference in my getting it.
[Here she should state what she'll want him to do, and when, and to be as specific as she can.]
Can I count on you to help me make that contact for me in about two weeks time?
This way, she can get him to commit to a specific action without him actually having to do anything right away. He'll have a sense of what's expected and will know when he is going to be receiving the call. We've set it up so it's easy for him to say yes. It's far enough out that it's not creating any immediate stress, yet close enough that it will not be forgotten when the call comes.
Incidentally, in getting him to say yes now, she'll have gotten him to make what marketers call a micro-commitment, which will up the chance that he'll follow throught on the next step.
So let's take a look at what makes the difference. The help must be defined. When it has a size and shape, it can be realistically related to. The action requested should be discrete, set in time, and given a context. So my suggestion is that she share with her friend her plan, let him know what part she'd like him to play, and let him know what it means to her.
When he says yes, she should not only thank him, but ask him what she can do to support him in getting it done: would a reminder help, should she draft an e-mail for him, provide him a call script, etc. She should also ask him if he's got any ideas. While it might make sense to run the action as much as possible, he shouldn't feel run, and he might just come up with a gem she hadn't thought of.
Not sure what action to take next? Want help taking the next step forward? You might want to Consider Coaching. I'll help you get clear so that you can be in action on the things that matter most to you. If you are interested, click the contact link above and send me a quick message.