I recently worked with a terrific young graduate who told me that despite going online every day and having many referrals, he was frustrated with his job search. Upon closer examination, I learned that his referrals were really just email addresses provided by previous employers and contacts. Having an email address for a target company is not the same as having a referral.
Job seekers will dramatically improve their odds of success with referrals and recommendations. You need to take an active role in requesting and managing them. Here is how I define referrals, leads, recommendations, and endorsements:
- A referral is when someone you know writes, calls or sends an email to introduce or recommend you to someone you hope to meet. They take an active role in helping you to connect. The very best referral opportunity is when your friend invites you to personally meet with someone over coffee, lunch or at an event. The more involved your contact or friend is with making the introduction, the better the quality of the referral it is.
- A lead is when someone provides you an email address, website or phone number in order for you to uncover a possible opportunity. Thank your friend for the lead but also ask them if they are willing and able to upgrade this to an active referral with introduction.
- A recommendation can be written for you as a physical letter or on your LinkedIn profile. Ask your current and past coworkers, managers, customers, professors and partners for a written recommendation. Don’t wait until you are a job seeker to be asking. Ask when you are finishing a project or assignment so you are fresh in that person’s mind. Try to get both a written letter and a LinkedIn recommendation.
- A recommendation list. Your colleague may agree to provide a phone recommendation in which case you will have their contact information on your list for prospective employers upon request. This is an important list and should only be provided to an employer once you are a serious candidate. Make sure your list of people is ready, available and prepped for each specific call and will support your efforts. Some of these people will be the same as the ones who write you a written recommendation.
- The word endorsement has been made very popular in the last year by LinkedIn. You can be endorsed for specific skills on your LinkedIn profile. You also have the opportunity to endorse others. This is good validation of how you are perceived. LinkedIn endorsements are also a great way to network in a positive way. My advice is to only endorse people for skills you know they possess. Don’t use LinkedIn’s automated suggestion list that is pushed to you. Instead go to the person’s profile and really consider which skills to endorse them for. You can also manage which of your endorsements you wish to share on your profile, so take an active role in managing these for yourself. Start the process correctly by selecting the skills for your LinkedIn profile. Accept only the ones you decide to show publicly.
Final Advice: Be generous in recommending, referring and endorsing others. Say thank you to your friends, colleagues and mentors who refer, recommend and endorse you. Keep in touch on a regular basis and see what you can do to help them. This is the most valuable part of your network so stay very close.
What advice can you add?