Here’s an interesting statistic. 70% of all job offers come through a referral. That means that out of the ten or so jobs the average person has during the course of their career, seven came through people in their network. Even with numbers like these many of us still don’t understand the value of a strong network. And even for those who do, quite often they are not willing to put in the effort needed to create and sustain a valuable and viable network.
The number one mistake people make is to think of their network as transactional. What I mean by this is that they wait until they have a need before reaching out. We all have gotten this call, “Hey, I know it’s been a few years since we last spoke, but I got laid off this week and wondering if you knew of something”. You may want to help, but the level of effort you put into joining their job hunt efforts will be in line with the strength of your relationship.
This doesn’t make you a bad person, simply human. So how do you create a situation where you can get the help you need when you have to make that call? Here are some tips.
- Be proactive – If you did happen to lose your job or want to make a change, who would be the first few people you would call? What is your relationship with them currently? I recommend making a list of 20-25 people who would be helpful to your career and in the next column rate your relationship with them using these metrics: Great, Good, Poor, Damaged. Then do the work needed to make all of your relationships with these people great. (Caveat: Don’t sell your soul. If somebody in that list is a bad contact don’t keep them there just because of what they can do for you. Simply remove and replace them. The world is too big to deal with bad actors.)
- Build value – Build value every chance you get. You should become the Most Valuable Sharer. Set google alerts to send you information that people in your list would be interested in finding out about. Check in with these folks regularly (I recommend monthly), just to see how they are doing and if THEY need anything. As Stephen Covey says in his book “The Seven Habit of Highly Successful People”, you are making deposits into their emotional bank account, so when it is time to make a withdrawal, you have a positive balance.
- Build your brand – Branding is not some difficult complicated process like some would have you believe. It is simply the answer to these two questions. What are you known for? What do people say about you when you leave the room? Do you KNOW the answer to these questions? I emphasize the word know, because sometimes what we think the answer is may not be accurate. Take some time and ask people honestly what they think about you. Or even better, ask them what do other people say about you when you are not around. Be prepared to hear something you are not expecting and whatever you do, don’t be defensive about it, just commit and work on any adjustment you need to make so you are seen by others in the way you want to be seen.
- Get out of the house – Social media does not replace face time. For the more introverted of us, who like to curl up on a coach with a good book, it is important to get out and be seen from time to time. This goes back to building relationships. People feel closer to others when they see them on a regular basis. When someone invites you to an event, that that opportunity to invite people on your list out as well. They will appreciate your invitation and it will count toward your emotional bank account deposit.
If you follow the tips above, you will be much more likely to grab a job or promotion quickly than if you wait until you need someone when reaching out for a referral.