The “Can you help me” Letter

Most people respond charitably to a plea for help, you can use this response to help you get in front of the decision maker.

Decide what sort of help you need.

Is it to do with you contemplating a move to a new industry or a new location?
Are you needing to know what qualifications it would be good to have in this new area and how to get them quickly if you don’t already have them?
Are you wanting to know if your CV has what it needs?

Anything except, “Do they have a job vacancy?”

Decide who you are going to write to, the higher up the company the better (definitely not personnel department unless you want a job in personnel, even then direct contact might not be the best way). Aim for the person you think would be your immediate boss, then go up two steps. If that’s the Managing Director, so much the better.

Decide what you want to get out of any subsequent meeting; information about trends in the industry, what might be “hot” in your CV, what might be not, introductions to other people who could have the information you’re looking for.

Then draft the letter:

Dear Mr Henderson

Might you be able to help me? (1) 

After working in the construction industry (2) for the last ten years, I’m thinking of a change of direction and wondered if you could spare me ten to fifteen minutes(3) to let me have some advice about how my past experience and skills might fit your industry(4).

Please note that I do not expect you to be able to offer me a position(5) or necessarily know of a vacancy, at the moment I’m simply exploring possibilities and would welcome your thoughts on how I might fit in(6).

My recent experience includes:-(7)

I’ll ring you next Tuesday afternoon to see if it would be possible for you to talk to me.(8)

Yours sincerely

(1) Get the help message in early.
(2) Make this a general description or a niche depending on what you’re aiming at.
(3) You’re not asking for a lot of time, if he talked to you in his coffee break that would do the job.
(4) You’re not asking about his company, this should make it easier for him to talk to you in general terms.
(5) How plain can you make it? You’re not expecting him to offer you a job (although that might be very nice!), you just want a chat.
(6) You’re telling him that’s what you want.
(7) Now follow three bullet points, your best achievements which you think he’ll be interested in, or skill statements which will transfer to his industry.
(8) Choose the day just after he receives the letter and make sure you ring him at that time. It would be great if you could arrange to go and see him (we have ways to help him make that decision) a short telephone conversation would do as a backstop.

Enclose a CV?
Perhaps, it depends on what level job you’re aiming at and if you have any inkling of a vacancy in his company.

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