Photo credit: Anton Glavas www.antonglavas.com
Why do we need resumes? Why do we need references?
I could just tell you what my past work experience has been. I could just tell you I did a good job in my previous position. Why all the extra fuss?
The answer is obvious: TRUST.
If I’ve written down my job title and place of employment on a resume, the person considering hiring me can verify it.
If the person considering hiring me has spoken to someone who used to employ me, they know that person’s probably telling the truth because they have no incentive to lie.
How, then, did I get my last two jobs without even needing to provide a resume or references?
Because there was already a high level of TRUST established between myself and the person doing the hiring.
Now I’m going to tell you about how I got that trust (and how you can, too).
Exhibit A: I was hired as a Project Manager Assistant.
My friend who worked professionally with the Project Manager at Yoga Alliance knew I was looking for work as a program/project coordinator, and that I was interested in project management. He connected us and after just a quick 20 minute phone chat… I was hired!
Exhibit B: I was hired as a Marketing Project Manager.
My partner’s friend runs a marketing company and I emailed her to let her know I was looking for work in digital marketing and/or project management. We met up for an hour long coffee and… I was hired!
The string that ties both situations together, as you can probably see, is that trust was already established between me and the person who hired me before we even talked. In both situations, I was able to take advantage of the fastest way to build trust – which is through an introduction or referral.
When two people have a good relationship and they trust each other, if one of those people introduces the other to a new person, that trust gets transferred over to the new relationship. My guess is, it’s just how we’re hard-wired to survive as a species.
Now, you might be thinking that I was just pure, old-fashioned lucky in both Exhibit A and B. Of course, referrals are great if you’re lucky enough to have someone introduce you, right? But what if you don’t have that?
Fear not, because there are many ways to increase your chances of getting a good introduction or a referral for a job. Read on to find out how.
How I Got Two Introductions That Landed Me the Exact Jobs I Wanted
1. I was clear on what I wanted to do.
To be able to communicate what we want to do to others, we have to first know what we want to do. It sounds obvious, but this is often the hardest step for people. It’s why I’ve essentially built an entire business around this piece alone.
I knew for Exhibit A I wanted work as a project/program coordinator, and I was eventually wanting to move into project management.
I knew for Exhibit B I wanted work doing project management and digital marketing.
2. I told everyone.
When you’re clear on what you want to do, it’s much easier to tell people you’re looking for work because you’re able to tell them exactly what kind. The people you tell are also way more likely to have you come to mind when they hear about an opening somewhere, if you’ve been specific in telling them what you want.
For Exhibit A, it might sound like good luck that I happened to have a friend who knew someone in project management. But what you’re not seeing in that story is the probably 15+ other people I told I was looking for this kind of work who didn’t get back to me with any kind of connection.
3. I conducted informational interviews.
In Exhibit B, again, it might just look like good luck that my partner’s friend runs a marketing company that happened to be looking for someone around the time I needed it. However, what you’re not seeing in that story is that I had already established a good professional connection with the woman doing the hiring months before during an informational interview. Another thing you’re not seeing in the Exhibit B story is the other informational interviews I conducted that didn’t lead to any kind of job offer.
A good connection or introduction may not lead to a job right away, but by building up multiple, genuine, good connections, a couple of them are likely to bear fruit at some point down the road.
It’s also possible, and very helpful, to initiate a connection for an informational interview. In other words, you don’t have to wait for a connection you have to come across a job that’s right for you, or to think of someone to connect you to – you can be proactive about it.
Here are two proactive steps you can take to land an informational interview with someone you don’t know, but with whom you have a mutual connection (thereby increasing your chances of a referral):
4. I came prepared to the interview, and was looking for the right fit (rather than just any job).
A referral or introduction can help you to get an interview, and assist with the transference of trust, but at the end of the day, it’s the job seeker that needs to be able to win the employer over during the interview.
In both Exhibit A and Exhibit B, I did my research online first, and made sure I had informed questions ready to ask. I also wrote down and had a clear idea of what I thought I would bring to the position.
However, what I believe helped me out the most in both circumstances is that I was genuinely looking for a position that was the right fit – I wasn’t looking to mold myself to the job just so I could get it. I wasn’t overly attached to either position before going into the interview, and I was genuinely curious to find out in our meeting if what I had to offer was the right match. (I was fortunate enough in both circumstances to not be in a place where I desperately needed a job – I understand this can be more challenging if this isn’t the case, but this is still a helpful mindset to adopt to whatever degree possible).
I hope this gives you some useful insight into how to use referrals and introductions to land your next dream job.
Here’s to building new connections, gaining trust, and getting referred into our dream jobs,
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.