Every time someone loses a job a well-meaning but ill-informed friend says, “Hey, why don’t you reach out to someone you know and see if there’s something for you at that company?” That’s great advice except you work too hard to spend extra time networking.
The reality is networking is something that every professional knows they need to do but not everyone does it. Many look at networking as a burden, as if those LinkedIn updates and Facebook notifications portend the tediousness of face-to-face meetings of new people. And yes, if you’re a homebody, networking can be difficult. It’s also necessary.Think of the popular refrain from people who don’t get the job they want, “It’s not what you know it’s who you know.” They’re right. Just as your character is shown by the company you keep, if you’re friends with someone held in high esteem by a potential employer, it only benefits you to be networked. It’s not about name-dropping, though. It’s about having a relationship.
A great way to leverage relationships is using referral groups. These groups have scheduled meetings and during that time is a great way to build your network and get those endorsements you may need one day.
Here are some tips to use referral groups to your advantage.
Show up: The key here is to be on time. Referral groups function when members show up on time. Believe it or not, a lot of people enroll in these groups and then never take advantage of this opportunity! That means you’ll shine just from doing the basics. Other basics to take care of are being a giver. When you’re at the group contribute, ask questions, and offer advice. Be a genial person. No one has ever been rejected from a job interview because they’re polite.
Don’t sell: The goal here is to build relationships. If you start asking about getting a job with a company or someone who another person knows, it’s a big turn-off! The goal of the group is to meet people and form relationships. If you’re peddling your business or yourself, then it stands to reason that you’re not a person with the group’s best interests in mind. Rather you’re someone trying to put something over on the group. This can seriously damage your reputation if you’re searching for work in certain communities. The easy advice: Simply be yourself!
Follow up: If someone provides a referral for you, that speaks to how you’ve impressed that particular individual. Send a thank you note to this person. They have just gone out on a limb for you. Their reputation is now tied to your performance. If you do well, then they’re that much more willing to give you a positive referral in the future. Manners matter; always say thank you.
Referral groups make networking that much easier. If you’re seeking a new career, before you quit your job, find a referral group specific to an area you’re interested in. Perhaps this group will help you see if your career choice is a good one. You’ll learn a lot in these groups, and the networking will become academic. Soon you’ll be the one giving referrals and receiving the thank you notes.