Change isn’t easy, especially when you have the comfort of a paying job. No matter how many reasons you list about why it’s time to leave, sorting out what you want to do next can be confusing and daunting.

One of the best ways to open doors to new opportunities is to utilize your network. But they can’t help you if you can’t get specific.

And then we’re back at the beginning of this conundrum: you’re wanting to make a change, but feeling stuck and uncertain because, hey — you don’t know what you don’t know about other opportunities which might exist.

I won’t be able to walk you through a comprehensive exercise in soul-searching in this article, but what I can do is give you something tangible which has helped many people in my network to help themselves. If you’re looking for that type of guidance, some great books to consider are What Color Is Your Parachute, Do What You Are, Designing Your Life, and Finding Your North Star. Or, check out this article which lays out how to utilize your network to help you discern your path.

Below is an email I received from my cousin a couple of years ago after she shut down her education technology company and was ready for a new challenge. I was amazed at the detail and clarity she had. And because of it, I was able to focus my efforts to help by making introductions and suggestions for her.

After you read it, I’ll break down for you what you should consider to create your own and help your network help you:

Hey Darrah,

Hope all is well! I’m back from the Burn — was a blast as usual (see some photos below).

I’m now on a full time job hunt and would love to solicit your help. I’ve applied to 2 jobs so far — one at XYZ to head up their Oakland initiative, and one at a nonprofit called ABC to manage strategic partnerships. I realize I need to expand my search beyond these.

So, I’d love your help in two ways:

1) Where can I find lists of jobs besides the obvious? What repositories are helpful? Do you know anyone who is a recruiter, and do you think that would be a good route?

2) After looking at a lot of job postings that aren’t a fit, I’ve put together a set of criteria, listed below, for which I’m seeking. Does anything come to mind? Any people I should talk to?

If this is easier over the phone, let me know. As always, thank you SO much for your help!



Type of organization:

  • A sustainable, highly-functional nonprofit org
  • A social impact company, or a similar purpose within a department of a large company
  • If it’s a startup, would have to be past Series A in funding
  • A progressive government entity
  • 20+ employees
  • Local, not distributed team (people working remotely)

The kind of work I care about:

  • Local impact in the Bay Area
  • Connecting the Bay Area’s tech and corporate world to its surrounding community in meaningful ways
  • Creating inclusive company cultures and diversity in hiring
  • Empowering women and minorities to start businesses
  • Women’s issues in education and the workplace
  • Sexual health and education, combatting sexual assault
  • Civil rights and human rights
  • Spreading stories through documentaries, podcasts/radio and other long-form journalism to raise awareness and spark change
  • Urban planning, specifically affordable housing and transit-oriented development
  • College/life counseling for teens who need it the most

I want my role to look like:

  • Connecting people, connecting the dots
  • Building partnerships between people and/or organizations
  • Creating strategy and/or participating in strategy sessions
  • Teaching and coaching
  • Writing and speaking
  • Planning events
  • Managing projects and/or people
  • Research

I don’t want my role to look like:

  • Fundraising and schmoozing
  • Working in isolation
  • Traveling a ton (5ish work trips a year would be manageable)
  • Commissioned sales or account executive
  • Customer support
  • Busywork, paperwork, computer all day long
  • Analyzing spreadsheets

Collaboration with other employees:

  • I want a manager who is a mentor I respect and learn from
  • Manage a small team
  • Work with others, in person, on a daily basis

Company culture:

  • Diverse staff, or prioritizing diverse hiring practices going forward
  • Respects employees’ boundaries (no calling over the weekend)
  • Flexible vacation policy
  • Prioritize accomplishing tasks over time spent at desk
  • Can work from home or remotely every so often
  • Employees respect one another and socialize outside of work


  • San Francisco
  • Oakland
  • Berkeley
  • South Bay to where BART ends — Millbrae (no Caltrain)
  • Accessible by public transit, preferably BART

Salary: $75k+

Start date: October 1

As you can imagine, Tess was able to find a new gig that was a great fit for her. Her level of clarity concerning what she was seeking made it simple for her network to know how they could open doors for her, or point her in the right direction.

Now how do you apply this to your search? Here are some key takeaways to consider:

-Be personal:

Her email addresses me by name and starts with a warm greeting and a quick update on what’s going on in her life which is causing her to reach out. She even adds pictures (which I didn’t include here to preserve her privacy). Make sure your note reflects your personality and doesn’t feel as if you’ve BCC’d everyone in your rolodex.

-Be direct:

She quickly gets to the point: that she needs help, and is specific that there are two ways in which I can help her. She doesn’t skirt around it, and suggests two options for ways to help and leverage my network. Perhaps because of my experience, I will have resources, and if not, I may have an introduction to, or knowledge of, a company which is a fit. It’s clear that she values my opinion, resources and network equally. This is wise, for her to create the best likelihood of my being able to assist.

-Be intentional:

The email offers tangible examples of some jobs that she considers a good fit, to serve as a framework for the reader. She also demonstrates that she has put the work into her search by applying already.

-Be specific:

It doesn’t get much more clear than her bulleted list of must-haves and have-nots. I suggest making a non-negotiable list for yourself of the top 10 items your role must have. It could include salary, culture, employee headcount, commute time, office attire, benefits, percent of time designated to administrative versus other roles, or any other combination of things which are most important to you. It will help you sift through the opportunities, ask great questions, and as this example does, it will help you ask your network to support you specifically.

-Be narrow:

She does a great job of narrowing down her search and painting a vivid picture for me. When she says ‘non-profit’, ‘social impact’, ‘startup’, etc, she’s speaking in broad terms; however, she gets more specific continually based on her criteria and non-negotiables. She is very specific in laying out both what she does and does not want the job to entail, so I can continue to knock out items which might come to mind, as well as to conjure up helpful ideas.

-Be gracious:

Never was she presumptuous or pushy, but instead, was personable, clear, and open. Each of these traits leaves me, as the reader, feeling inclined to help her in any way I can.

-Be discerning:

You’ll want to be intentional about those to whom you send this. If you’re not comfortable with their knowing this amount of detail about your career, nor are you comfortable asking for a favor, don’t send it to them. Otherwise, find another way to engage with them first, before diving into this ask. Also use this as a resource in nurturing your network.

As your search continues, and ultimately wraps up, be sure to circle back with anyone who invested in you during this process. Send them updates and thanks for their help.

If you do know exactly where you want to go next, but don’t have a connection there, check out this article which will help you connect with them with ease.

Want more tips on how to create the life you want through intentional relationship building? Get your FREE ebook”The 55 Best Questions To Ask To Break The Ice And Really Get To Know Someone” here.

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