Networking, either through your personal contacts or by using social media tools like Linkedin, is an important part of any job search strategy. However, getting referred to a working professional who may be helpful in your job search is only the start. Here are some things to do to maximize the value of that referral.
Research the Referral – Use Linkedin, profiles that may be on their employer’s web site, published articles, etc. to learn more about the contact. Look for similarities between their backgrounds and yours (same college, same major, etc.).
Contact Information – To start, make sure you have received the referral’s contact information – especially business phone and email. A cell phone number is nice to have, but should be used with caution depending upon the advice of your referral source.
Initial Communication – The initial communication is crucial. It should be clear and concise. Include these elements:
- Explain the Connection – Identify who referred you and how you know the referring party.
- Describe Your Background – You have some leeway here, but college major, important skills, extra-curricular activities, and possible career interests are possible subjects. Keep it to 3-4 sentences at most.
- State Your Purpose – Unless you know of a specific position that is open at the referral’s company, ask for an informational interview. State that your goal is to learn more about the referral’s education and career experiences, to communicate career options that you are considering and to get their feedback.
- Close – End your email by thanking them and summarizing your contact information.
In most cases, your first outreach should be by email. A call to the referral’s business number is also acceptable, especially if you know the person. Either way, make sure your communication is professional and error free. Be sure to proof-read and spell-check emails. Similarly, with telephone communication, practice what you want to say and be sure to use a confident voice.
If after your initial outreach you do not hear back, be sure to follow-up. Keep in mind that you are contacting busy people – they may not put responding to your email or voice mail message at the top of their to-do list. Be prepared to follow-up two or three times. Given this, you may want to alternate email and phone follow-ups. If they see a call from you on their caller ID, they might just pick-up in order to get an item off their to-do list.
Finally, keep in mind that professional networking is among the best job search strategies and most professional people will be very willing to help. They remember when they started their careers and the help they received during their job search process. Once you get started and have success, you’ll find that it’s actually a skill you’ll be using throughout your career.
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