You shouldn’t need to.
It’s common knowledge that one of the key outcomes of any networking meeting should be referrals and introductions to new contacts. But a lot of people feel uncomfortable asking for this. Check out my previous post on why some people hate networking.
If the conversation has gone really well and been quite specific, a simple “Who else do you think I should be talking to?” will probably be enough. However, I have found that this is often too vague, making it hard for your contact to think of a person to refer you to.
Make it easier for them to come up with a name or two by being more specific about the purpose of the referral that you ask for.
Here are some examples:
1. Share information. Ask who they know who might be interested in or benefit from hearing your perspective on one of the issues you have been discussing; or
2. Pick a topic from the conversation you have been having and ask whether they know someone who may be able to give further insight, information or a different perspective
3. Introduce a topic or angle that was not covered in your meeting and ask if they know someone who might be willing to share their experience as well, or perhaps have a different point of view
As long as you are genuinely interested in what the next person has to offer, these approaches should help you to feel more comfortable asking for a “lead”. You are not asking for a personal recommendation or an introduction with the expectation of a role immediately. You are continuing your research and looking for the next person with whom you can discuss something that is of mutual interest, yet is pertinent to your job search. This will help you to further validate your targets and refine your value proposition and sharpen your resume.
Do lots of this and you will expand your network faster than you realise, you will uncover information and insights that other job-seekers don’t know. This can give you a powerful edge in an interview, and you will position yourself to be ‘top of mind’ when an opportunity opens up.
Show a genuine interest in what others have to say and you will be amazed at what they will share with you, and the new people they will connect you with.
No cold calling
If you are like me you don’t like making ‘cold calls’ to people you don’t know. To ease the pain you can always ask the person giving you the referral to make contact first and check whether their contact is happy to talk to you. So when you call they are expecting it, have already agreed and understand the context. Much, much easier. In fact, more often than not the person referring you will want to do this anyway, so that they can be sure of protecting their relationships in case the new contact doesn’t want to ‘play’.
Golden Rule – it may sound obvious but always ask the referrer if they are happy for you to use their name when you reach out to the person they have referred you to.
Keep the networking chain growing – make it a habit to try to source at least 1 to 2 new referrals from each networking conversation. You won’t always get this but this is what you need to do to keep the network steadily expanding.
Close the loop – apart from the obvious ‘thank-you’ messages, make sure you get back to the referrer with some feedback and an update of how things went when you got in touch with the people they have been generous enough to connect you with. They will be keen to hear and will want to know that you took the referral seriously.
So, start where it feels safe, build your network one person at a time and work on steadily building up the momentum – it gets easier and more comfortable the more you do it.