Get a Referral

I promised in my last post that I would discuss getting a referral – and then today when I started to write about it – I stalled. I didn’t want to do it. It seemed hard and I thought “well, they probably won’t do it anyway” (they, being you – the entire world that is not me). “Nobody ever wants to do this part” I thought to myself. Which isn’t true all the time. But people do resist it. Just like I was resisting writing this post. It is uncomfortable, it is different, and we have to talk about it. It’s the elephant in the room during every career coaching conversation. If you already know someone who works at a company you want to work for – then awesome – you are done! Ask them to recommend you. Game over. But if you don’t already know someone who works there, you need to get it over with and go meet someone. Which means doing IT. The big ugly word. The thing that sends people to support groups en masse – Networking! *Queue dramatic music*

I am not suggesting you go to massive networking events in a suit and shove business cards at people whose names you can’t remember. I am suggesting that you not do that at all.

Now – what I am suggesting is that you set a list of target companies that you are going to apply to. These are companies you really want to work for. Based on location, reputation, benefits…whatever is important to you in your search. Once you have anywhere from 3-10 target companies (if you have trouble figuring out your target company list or getting traction in your search – I also recommend this bookby Steve Dalton) I want you to start meeting and talking to people that work on those companies. We’ll talk about what those conversations look like in my next post. Today, let’s get the ball rolling with a few ideas on how to meet folks that work at your target companies:

  1. Use the advanced search tool on LinkedIn to find people who work at the target company and share another affiliation with you. Fellow alumni are a good place to start. Search company name and school together and there you go. You can also use the best feature on LinkedIn which is, the “Find Alumni” tool on the connections tab. Seriously it is gold – just go there now and use it. I’ll wait………..SEE – it is awesome. Frankly, I think it should be the most prominently featured tool on LinkedIn – it is that useful. Fellow Alums are very open to connecting and talking, so reach out.
  2. Ask friends, family, and colleagues if they know anyone that works at the target company you are focusing on. Don’t give them your whole list at once (unless they are the level of friend that have helped you move houses before – because the whole list at once is that level of imposition). It is so easy for someone to think through their friends and see if they know anyone that works at one company. If they don’t know anyone – the follow-up question is “Do you know anyone who *might* know someone that works there?” Follow-up on any leads anyone ever gives you. Then thank them. Lather, rinse, repeat.
  3. Go to events that are hosted by the company or that employees are likely to attend. This could be anything from a tailgate at your alma mater, a chamber of commerce breakfast, a software meetup group, or a professional association conference. It’s easier than ever to figure out where companies are likely to engage with you socially. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or check out their own website/event page to see what they have going on in the near future. Check out your Alumni Association events for your area. Look up the events for professionals in your specialization or industry (with a keen eye to vendors and sponsors). If you are targeting the right groups – you’re likely to meet someone valuable even if you don’t strike immediate pay dirt.

Hopefully those first ideas three have your wheels turning. This first step is figuring out ways to meet folks where you want to work. That’s the only thing you have to do in round one; engage your network and figure out who you need to speak with.

Tomorrow I’ll focus on how to ask a new contact for a conversation (in certain circles this is known as an informational interview – but I’m aware that most people don’t use that phrase) and we’ll explore what that conversation might look like, including what you need to ask.

Happy, easy networking!


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