Your friends are your most valuable resource during the job search.

It’s hard to come up with a real percentage of jobs that go unadvertised – some say as much as 80%, though I can’t find any actual studies supporting that – but it’s supposedly large. Add to that people like me who live on social media and therefore see advertised job all day, and the result is many positions that are available to you if you can just get the attention of the right people.

That’s where your network comes in.

But how you reach out to that network can make or break your chances of hearing about that perfect job.

Years ago, I sent an email to my friends asking for help. It landed me two part-time gigs that eventually led me to so much work I started turning jobs down. (I’ve posted a recreation below.) It’s worth noting, in fact, that every job I’ve ever gotten in my entire career I’ve found out about through friends.

Let’s assume you’ve updated your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and all related documents and social media. How then do you contact your friends and acquaintances to let them know you’re looking for work and what do you say?

Four tips:

Send a direct message or email: If contacting several people, send an email or a mass Facebook message. I’ve seen people post job search messages on their Facebook timelines, but that’s easier for people to ignore. Go for the message.

Be specific: Don’t say you’ll do “anything.” People who ask for help finding work always say they’ll do anything. Will you do taxes, cut hair, write a grant proposal, and fly a tourist group around in a helicopter? No? Then you won’t (can’t) do anything.

This morning alone I’ve seen postings for web designers, back end developers, salespeople, customer service reps, hairstylists, copywriters, an actuary, and a tennis instructor. I am not going to forward you all these jobs.

When asking people to help you find work, list the exact things that you are capable of doing and what you want to do.

I found an article on The Muse that suggests you list your ideal job title and function, as well as other job titles you would consider. That might be a good idea. But…

Be judicious with detail: You don’t need to write your whole resume. You can attach it. You’re writing to a list of people who already know who you are. Don’t bury them in information or bore them, or your email won’t get read.

The Muse also suggests that you list your “last three position titles, companies you’ve worked for, and responsibilities. Think your resume, but condensed into three bullets,” as well as “A list of 4-5 companies you’d love to work for, plus their locations.”

I think that’s too much detail. But it’s up to you. I’m sharing the suggestion in case you want to use it.

I didn’t include all that. I said I was looking for work, listed my skills and the types of jobs I was looking for, and asked that people please keep me in mind should they hear of anything that might be suitable. It worked.

Be grateful: Say “thank you” and offer to return the favour if the opportunity arises.

The people who like you will want to help you, and they will as long as you make it easy for them.

Here’s the email that got me a ton of work.

Good luck with yours.

Dear friends:
I hope you are all well and happy, and please excuse the mass email.

I am writing to ask for your help. I have decided that I need to make a change in the way I’m approaching my career. So, I am looking for work and would like to ask you to please let me know if you hear of anything to which I might be suited.

I have chosen the people on this list because you are all connected in some way to the industries that interest me. I am looking for a job in print, web, or television writing, editing, proofreading, or copywriting. My skills include all of these things, as well as video editing, interviewing, and line production. My areas of interest are pop culture, movies, music, books, health, and careers, among other things. I am an excellent researcher and am pretty sure I can find you any information, person, or product you need – within reason – in a short period of time. My work ethic is second to none and I know I would be an asset to the right team. I promise that if you recommend me to anyone I will not embarrass you.

I have attached my resume, in case you are able to pass it in to anyone. And please feel free to ask me for more information.

Again, all I’m asking is that you please let me know if you hear of anything. I promise to return the favour in any way I can in future.

Thank you so much!

I hope to see you all soon.