Fix My Career: With Suzy Welch

Suzy Welch: This mistake can kill your chances of landing your dream job

This week, CNBC Make It is launching "Fix My Career," a makeover series in which the professionally stymied can present their most pressing career concerns to bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch, and get her no-nonsense take on what to do next.

In the first episode, Welch sits down with Henry Ayala, a 21-year-old college student. After he was put in touch with someone he hoped could help him land a job at entertainment company Roc Nation, Ayala called and emailed multiple times a day to follow up — and got no response. He wondered if his approach was too aggressive.

"What if they don't respond to you right away?" the Rutgers University student asked Welch. "How long do you wait before you try to follow up?"

CNBC Contributor Suzy Welch
CNBC Contributor Suzy Welch

Going after your dream job, Welch explains, is a delicate dance. On the one hand, you want to show an employer that you're determined and bursting with enthusiasm. But on the other hand, you have to be sure not to come across as too pushy, or worse, desperate.

Ayala's approach, unfortunately, demonstrated more desperation than determination. If you're emailing someone you haven't met, Welch tells Ayala, then you shouldn't expect an immediate response. And if you do get a response, she says, the last thing you should do is ask them about a job.

Instead of asking about a job, focus on building a lasting relationship with that contact. Show up for that meeting or phone call having thoroughly researched that person and their career.

"Go in as their super fan," she says. "It is so annoying when somebody says, 'Can I have 15 minutes of your time?' Then you get on the phone with them and they don't know a d--n thing about you."

Welch explains Ayala's overzealous approach is likely what hurt his chances of working for the company.

"Showing grit and eagerness are great," she explains. "Employers want to see those traits. But they are also looking for focus, maturity, self-control and self-awareness. They're looking for adults." Ayala didn't get his dream job because he came across as desperate instead of determined.

"The difference between the two," says Welch, "will be critical for him moving forward."

And when Welch checks in with Ayala several weeks later, she finds he's not only landed a job interview with another company, he's made crucial adjustments to his communication style.

"It's not just 'give me an opportunity,'" he tells Welch about his approach to the interview, saying that instead it's, "'give me an opportunity so I can show you exactly what I can do and how I can do it.'"

Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker. Think you need Suzy to fix your career? Email her at gettowork@cnbc.com.

Video by Nate Skid and Beatriz Bajuelos Castillo

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