So, once you have a goal in mind, your personal brand developed and your personal marketing tools customized accordingly, and a set of target employers to focus on, it is time to start reaching out to the people who can help you.
Referrals are generated by talking with people you know and having them introduce you to their friends and colleagues who might be in a position to assist you in some way. Before you start calling everyone you know and blindly asking for help, remember a few things:
- Be specific. You’ve put in a lot of time and effort to identify and craft your personal brand, and find companies that might be a good fit for you. Keep those targets, and your message, in mind. Don’t call your Uncle and say, “I’m looking for a job. Do you know of anything?” Almost no one can effectively assist you from that vantage point, unless they themselves are hiring or they just heard about a job ten minutes ago. Beyond that, the request is so vague as to be overwhelming. It also goes against all the effort you have already put in to the process. You don’t want a job doing “anything”. You want a job doing a specific function, for a specific industry, in a specific place. Preferably for one of the specific companies you already identified. Incorporate that information into your communication with the people to whom you are speaking. Don’t ask your Uncle “Do you know of anything?” instead; ask, “I’m looking for an entry‐level editing position in the publishing industry in New York City. I’m happy to start anywhere in that industry but my top three companies are Random House, Harper Collins, and Doubleday. Do you happen to know anyone I can speak to at those places or somewhere similar?” Now your Uncle has something specific to work with to begin thinking through all his contacts to begin to help you.
- Do the work for them. Being specific to the point of the ideal companies is great, and certainly a big step forward from “I’ll do anything”. However, the easier you can make it on the people you are asking to help you the better your results will be. LinkedIn is perhaps the premier tool for this in the professional world right now. Check out our full guide on how to use it, but if you can use it to figure out exactly whom you need to speak with, it makes asking for an introduction from your connection even easier. Instead of having to say, as we saw in the last example, “I want to work for Random House; do you know anyone?” You can instead say, “Uncle Joe, I saw on LinkedIn that you are connected to Bob Smith at Random House. Do you know him well enough to introduce me? He doesn’t work in the exact department where I want to work, but I’d love to talk with him about what it is like to work there and see if he might be able to introduce me to some other people in the editing area.”
- Give it time. Repeat this process over and over with anyone you know reasonably well and then be patient. Since you are going through your friend you need to give them time to respond to your request, and even more time for their friend to respond to them. Following up too quickly with your friend (which then forces them to do the same) can become annoying quickly. Every time you ask for an introduction, give both parties at least a week (two weeks total wait for you) to reply. If you haven’t heard back from your friend or the referral by that time, follow up with your friend.
Direct outreach gives you a little more control over the process (you don’t have to wait for others to do the work for you) but it also requires more effort. There are several channels for this that you want to consider.
If you see a job open on the website of your target company, apply for it. This is usually most productive when you have a lot of experience that is strongly related to the job you are seeking. Since many students and recent grads don’t always have significant experience, they will be best served by combining direct applications with outreach to people at their target companies. Even if you have plenty of experience related to your target job/company, following up on online applications with outreach to people can help you stand out from the competition online.
The most important people to consider contacting are recruiters/hiring managers that routinely work with QU, QU alumni that you can find through our Bobcat Connect network or LinkedIn, and company contacts you can find on your own through online hunting or in‐person events like career fairs and networking events.
Direct outreach has a different feel depending on which of these audiences you are contacting and it is important to not treat them all the same way.
- If you are reaching out to a recruiter or hiring manager that works with QU, be direct. You can use this approach with anyone you meet at a fair or event here on campus, or whose information you find in QUCC. They already know QU and their job is to fill jobs, so you can ask them for one pretty directly. What would the initial contact look like? Something like this:
“I found your information through Quinnipiac’s QUCC database. I’m graduating in May with a degree in Political Science and I’m very interested in XYZ Corp. I’m especially drawn to your programs that are trying to grow youth participation in national elections. I know you are very busy but would it be possible to set up a time for a quick 10 minute phone call to see if my background might be a good fit for your organization? I’ve attached my resume to give you an overview of my background. Even if there are no current opportunities, I’d love to get your opinion on if I would be a good candidate for XYZ in general—and if not, what I could do to make myself a better candidate in the future. Please let me know a time that might work for you and I look forward to the chance to speak with you briefly”.
Notice a few things here:
-This is direct and to the point about the purpose.
-It gives a quick introduction about who you are and your background.
-It adds some other fact or piece of information that lets them know you’ve done some research and this isn’t a mass‐email form letter.
-It gives an acknowledgement of the value of their time and a promise not to take too much of it (which you need to stick to if you get a phone call).
-Finally, you close with an option for them to offer advice even if they aren’t hiring.
Most of the recruiters we work with are always on the lookout for new talent even if they have no open jobs. Use this as a chance to get on their radar for the next job, which could open at any time. Most importantly, you aren’t trying to convince the person to hire you in one email. All you are asking for is a quick phone call. When you get that chance, treat it like you would any interview, because it is one.
The other important thing to note about how this request is phrased: you aren’t asking for a specific job, just to talk about working there and something that caught your eye. Why is this important? Because it gives you flexibility to discuss everything once you get on the phone.
If you have lots of different interests or areas you might be able to help the company this approach doesn’t close any doors initially. Yes, you still want to avoid getting on the phone and saying “I love your company! Please hire me. I’ll do anything!” You need to stick to your brand, but this gives you the flexibility to describe to the recruiter how you think you could help in marketing or operations, for example, and gives you the chance to back it up with some stories—which is hard to do with a resume alone.
- If you are reaching out to a contact at a target company that you found online or through a recruiting or networking event outside of QU, or a QU alumnus, you want to add even more of an element of advice–‐seeking to the request as well. What would the initial contact look like? Something like this:
“I found your information through the Phi Alpha Theta National group on LinkedIn. I’m graduating in May with a degree in Political Science and I’m very interested in XYZ Corp. I’m especially drawn to your programs regarding growing youth participation in national elections. I know you are very busy but would it be possible to set up a time for a quick 10‐minute phone call? I’d love to get your opinion on what it is like to work there and what I can do to make myself a good candidate. I’ve attached my resume to give you an overview of my background and to see if you also might have any advice on how to customize it based on what XYZ looks for in candidates. Please let me know a time that might work for you and I look forward to the chance to speak with you briefly”.
While people in this category will generally be willing to talk with you, they also don’t know you. People, in general, won’t recommend you to a friend or boss to be considered for a job until they know you a little and can trust you. After all, to refer you is to endorse you personally and put their reputation on the line for you. This is why referrals are so powerful. If you ask for some help and advice as someone looking to get into the industry you can begin to establish a bond that may eventually lead to a referral.