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Are you running around with a virtual J (for job seeker) on your forehead? Think about it: If you’re looking for a new opportunity and stopping everyone you know to ask if they’ve heard of any open positions for you (because you “can do anything!”), you may be wearing this imaginary tattoo without realizing it. And the truth is, it’s not doing you much good.

To your credit, career coaches have always alleged that networking is the best way to find a job. However, the difference between convincing someone to join your cause and hitting a dead end is all in your approach. For example, when you ask people if they know of opportunities and they don’t, the conversation ends right there.

So, it’s time to rethink your angle. Here are a few tips to help convince people to be your allies in the job-hunting process—even if they don’t have a position in mind for you right away.

1. Communicate With One Contact at a Time

If you’re tempted to send an email to 300 of your closest friends to ask for their help, stop now! People who receive your note won’t believe you’re really counting on them—because they’ll assume someone else will respond to your plea.

2. Listen More Than You Talk at Networking Events

Instead of, “Hello, nice to meet you, how can you help me find a job?,” make a point to have a real exchange with the people you meet. Ask a lot of questions—people love to talk to someone who pays attention and asks pointed follow-up questions. If you build relationships with your networking contacts and avoid vague requests, they will be much more likely to help you.

3. Connect With Long-Lost Contacts

What if you see someone you’ve been meaning to call, but never got around to it? Don’t run the other way—or worse, bombard her with requests to help you on your job hunt. Approach her with a big smile, acknowledge how long it’s been, and invoke a little mutual nostalgia by commenting on your joint history.

4. Use Social Media to Get the Conversation Started 

No, this isn’t a free pass to spam your Facebook page with “Can you help me find a job?” updates. Instead, fill your social media streams with content that shows off what you know.

When people see that you know your stuff, they’re more likely to comply with an occasional request to assist with your job search. With the right preparation and mindset, you can tell your contacts that you’re looking for a job without scaring them off. Keep in mind, most people want to assist; it’s your job to make it easy for them to understand how they can help.

Read the entire post, including samples of what to say, inspired by our book, 100 Conversations for Career Success, on my guest post for The Daily Muse.

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