Professionals are constantly being reminded of the importance of developing and maintaining a good network, and I'm sure you are no exception. Making connections with fellow professionals in your field is necessary to help get work done-- network connections may become clients, partners or mentors-- and to help get work. Many employers are likely to take a close look at candidates who are recommended by employees or network connections of their own.
The people in your network are likely willing and able to provide referrals on your behalf, but it's up to you to seek those people out. Sort through your network, be it online or offline, and find those connections who work for the companies you've got your eye on, or those who are otherwise connected to important figures at those companies. Here are some tips to request valuable referrals with savvy.
- Using LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a fantastic tool to connect with other professionals, and to see who is connected with others. Say you're interested in working for Company X, but none of your own connections work for them. LinkedIn can tell you if any of your second-degree connections-- friends of a friend, if you will-- work for them. The same goes for slightly more distant connections, as well. The messaging function built into LinkedIn will allow you to contact professionals in your network if you are unable to or prefer not to call or email.
- To Call or Write: When making contact with a network connection to ask for a referral, it may be preferential to present your request in writing. Written communication allows the other person a little time to think it over before making a decision as to whether or not they're willing to recommend you, and as to how they plan to do that. That having been said, it is easier to decline a request in writing compared to that over the phone.
- Making the Request Appropriately: How you ask can make a difference, especially depending on how well you know person you're asking. It's usually never appropriate to simply say "Can you refer me?" First off, that's a fairly unsavvy way of putting it, and second, anyone can refer you. The question is, do they really know enough about you and the position to do so effectively. You may want to ask "Do you feel you know my work well enough to refer me?" or "Do you feel comfortable referring me for this position?"
- Providing a Resume: If your potential referrer is someone you may not know especially well, or they think they should know more specifics about your work, it's recommended that you include an up-to-date resume or portfolio upon soliciting the referral, or at the request of the referrer. A recommendation from an uninformed connection can reflect poorly upon both of you.
During your career transition, don't be afraid to make use of your professional connections to get your foot through the door, and remember, networking is about reciprocity, so be willing to do the same for them.
Careerminds provides scalable, strategic solutions to organizations seeking affordable, web-based outplacement services. Using a Web 2.0 e-learning platform that delivers affordable, online career transition services, Careerminds provides a high-tech and high-touch blend of on-demand career transition education supported by senior-level career consultants to help displaced workers reenter the workforce quickly.