Friday, January 16, 2009

Building Your Referral Network

It really is all about who you know in this world… especially if you are looking for a job! You could be the best in your professional area (maybe even a Rockstar;) but if you don’t have the connections to get you in front of the right people, you will never be able to advance your career. I would venture a guess that if you asked most people how they got their jobs; almost everyone would say it was in some way through a referral, connection, introduction, etc. Personally, I have only gotten one job in over 20 years that was not through a referral. And every recruiter will tell you that the best candidates come from personal referrals.

So, how do you go about building a network of people who could help you? First of all, put together a list of people you know in various industries that you are interested in pursuing. Fill out a LinkedIn profile (completely please) and start inviting them to join your network. Research companies where you want to work and find employees who currently work there… contact them directly for insights on the company; what openings do they have now or possibly in the near future, who is over the particular department or group where you want to work, what is the culture like there, what makes them successful, etc. Then follow up on the leads and referrals they give you... ask for some time to meet with them and be respectful of that time.

Don’t forget to get out and beat the streets… join networking groups and go to the lunches, meetings and seminars for leads and talk to people who might be able to help you. When you do this you will also be able to help other people get what they want as well. Be a referral for someone else! Besides making you feel better, helping others will also come back around later and help you. People remember those who help them and are happy to return the favor. Use you time wisely, volunteer to be on a board, make sure you are Google-able, and become a Subject Matter Expert at something… at least one thing in your chosen profession. Make it easy for recruiters like me to find you!