Why Anyone You Meet Could Become a Valuable Job Reference

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It could be anyone.  Really ANYONE.  Your hairdresser, the cashier at Starbucks, the parent you stand next to on the soccer sideline– even your dentist.  Anyone you come into contact with at any time could potentially become your next job reference.

Most of us understand why this is—it’s the power of LinkedIn, its Facebook, it’s word of mouth.  We are all interconnected.  And when we’re actively job searching, we realize how important those contacts are.  We tap into our connections—even loose ones.

Let’s say you’ve decided to actively look for a new position—what’s one of the first things you’ll do?  If you’re wise, you’ll try to add to your LinkedIn network.  You’ll look for open job postings and search your connections to see if anyone you know is working at those companies.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find someone you can reach out to.

How strong will that connection be?  Hard to say.

Never assume that a former boss or human resources manager will sing your praises. They may have seemed to like you when you worked for them, but on the phone with your prospective employer, they sometimes end up saying something potentially damaging. Employers love that, because they want to hear from someone who will talk about you good, bad, or indifferent.

LinkedIn Networking Degrees Explained

LinkedIn categorizes the people in your network by degrees.  If you click on the name of a contact, you will see 1st, 2nd, or 3rd next to the name.  First degree contacts are those people you are directly connected to because one of you has accepted the invitation to connect.  2nd degree contacts are people who are connected to your first degree connections.  Third degree contacts are people who are connected to your 2nd degree contacts. All levels of contacts can be utilized in a job search if approached in the right way.

In a classic sociology study conducted by Mark Granovetter, results showed that people were 58% more likely to get a job through weak ties than strong ties.  The reason for this is that strong ties tend to give redundant knowledge because they know similar people and information.  Our weaker ties travel in different circles and have access to new information (Adam Grant).

It may sometimes not seem worth it to approach a weaker tie, but in a competitive job market, that one connection may get your resume to the top of the stack.

We recommend that you keep an updated document where you could store testimonials from past employers, past associates or anyone that you feel could add value to your credibility. One easy way to conduct this is through LinkedIn. Offer to write a fantastic one for someone in your network first. They’ll be likely to reciprocate with something equally valuable.

Approaching an Acquaintance for Job Help/Advice

It’s not easy to ask someone you don’t know very well for help.  The best approach is being direct.

  • Start out by introducing yourself and how you are connected to the person.
  • Explain your interest in the company or position.
  • Think about the appropriate call to action. What are you expecting this person to do after reading your message?  If it’s a weaker contact, you might expect them to simply tell you a little about the company.  Depending on the comfort level, you might ask to meet for coffee.  Or, for a closer connection, you could ask if the person would consider forwarding your resume.
  • Prep the contact with some ammunition to best advocate on your behalf. Speak highly of yourself and your qualifications for the position.  Briefly explain how you will bring value. In some situations, you can word your email so it is easy to simply forward on to a hiring manager.

Use a Recruiter’s Network

If your own network yields “x” number of contacts, imagine the powerful connections of a recruiting firm.  Many job seekers begin with their own network, and later turn to recruiters for help targeting a specific industry.  Choose a recruiting partner who will broaden your targeted network exponentially.

Artemis Consultants specializes in recruiting services for Software, Technology, Data and B2B Services companies.  We can advise you about how to best leverage your own network and be an advocate for you as you meet new people through our network.

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