If you want a job, and you aren't focusing on tapping into your network to try to win a referral into the company that interests you, it's time to drastically alter your strategy. As employers try to cut hiring costs, decrease turnover and improve new hire time-to-productivity, they are becoming more aggressive about encouraging their employees to recommend people who would be good candidates. A New York Times article reports that employees hired as the result of a referral are 15 percent less likely to quit and that they "perform better, stay longer and are quicker to integrate" on the job. What company wouldn't want to identify this type of candidate?
CareerXRoads, a consulting practice that studies recruiting technology solutions, conducts annual studies about how organizations source and hire employees. They found that nearly half of all companies make at least one hire for every five referrals they get. If you are not putting yourself in positions to be referred, you are missing out on one very key aspect of job search networking.
Let people know what you do. Don't be obnoxious about it, but especially if you are actively job searching, make a point to talk about your professional expertise with people you know. If you're at a party, it's natural to exchange pleasantries and ask, "So, what do you do?" When you have a chance to respond, don't delve into a diatribe about your job search -- simply mention your expertise matter-of-factly. If the person seems really interested, and especially if you share professional interests, consider steering the conversation to find out if the person may know anyone at some of your target companies. However, recognize, that if you've just met it's unlikely that your new contact will jump at the chance to refer you for a job. Think of the meeting as a steppingstone and make sure to follow up.
Grow your network and keep conversations alive. You can't get referrals before people get to know you. It's your job to put yourself in positions to meet new people and to keep in touch with contacts. Why do people refer candidates for positions? One reason is because they think they are competent and can do the job, but another important reason is because they like the person. When you meet people you like, or you might like to know better, follow up with them. Forward occasional links to articles that they may like and ask to meet for coffee. The more people who know you and like you, the better your chances to land a referral.
Volunteer for opportunities. Be known as someone who is always willing to pitch in. If you are employed, step up to take on challenging projects where you'll have a chance to showcase what you know. If you're between positions, look for places to offer your help. Ideally, you'll land volunteer gigs where you can use your work skills, but if you have a hard time landing the perfect volunteer job, find an organization whose mission you support and find ways to pitch in. You'll grow your network and your potential for job referrals simply by doing what you say you will!
Make seeking opportunities for referrals a priority and you are much more likely to land a job sooner than later.
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