For some, it can be difficult to muster up the courage to ask for any type of favor or assistance. Many fall into the bucket of not wanting to seem like they are using someone, or simply being pesky. Saying, “Hey I hope you’re well. It’s been forever since we talked in 2002. Can you introduce me to this VP you’re connected with at Apple?”, can be downright awkward. And it should be. Because it is. There are far better and effective ways of tactfully asking for a recommendation or introduction from your network.
Here are some tips on how to stay relevant and top of mind so that when you are ready to ask, you can be confident that this person will remember you and want to help you out!
1. Before you leave any employer, ask for written recommendations.
LinkedIn makes this very easy with their ‘visible recommendations’ feature written directly on your profile. For some companies, it’s legitimately against the policy to write any type of recommendation. Don’t take this as a defeat. Instead, ask this person if they can write you a letter of recommendation. This way, when future employers ask for a reference check 10 years later, you can show them this scanned/PDF’d letter or a print out of your LinkedIn Profile so that your network isn’t being contacted multiple times.
It’s important to give direction to your praiser. What do you want them to emphasize? If you’re looking for jobs requiring a high level of organization and communication skills with executives, then tell them that! It can be difficult for the praiser to write something about someone, so make it as easy for them as possible. Tell them what areas and skills you want showcased; otherwise, you might just get a generic recommendation.
2. If you have already left a company, and didn’t receive a recommendation, stay in touch with ex-colleagues periodically.
Make it a point to reach out quarterly with those that you genuinely want to stay connected with. Great tactics include:
– Send them an article that made you think of them. For instance, I’m always devouring articles about hiring and recruiting. I can send this to my previous colleagues and say, “Hey, I just read this article and thought of you. I hope you’re doing well.”
– Simply send them an email providing a brief update, and ask how things are going on their end. If you have a good rapport with them, add them on FaceBook under one of your circles with limited views (if you don’t feel comfortable sharing all of your private life).
– If they are local, invite them to events that might be of interest to them. They may not show up, but you’re making a concerted effort in meeting them. Likewise, if you’re in their neighborhood, ask them to catch up over a quick coffee or lunch.
The important thing here is that you stay in touch (even if it’s once every 6 months) so that when you do reach out, it’s warmer.
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3. If you didn’t get a recommendation, and you haven’t caught up quarterly, AND you really need an introduction or recommendation… don’t sweat!
You can still tactfully ask for help with a genuine and well crafted email.
Remember that cringe-worthy introduction at the top of this post? Avoid that! Instead of saying, “Hi, by the way I need this…” be more direct up front.
Start off with what you need and then follow up with personal inquiries. An example looks like this:
It’s been a long time since we’ve last spoken – 2002 to be exact. Most recently, I’ve been working at Sony as a Project Manager, where I’ve been executing creative projects up to $10MM in value. It’s been a great ride! Unfortunately, we’re going through layoffs and I’m looking at new Project Manager opportunities in the Los Angeles area.
I saw you were connected to Joe Brown at Hulu. I was wondering how well you know him and if you would feel comfortable making an introduction in case there are opportunities that match. I’m attaching my resume here. I’d appreciate if you can pass along to anyone in your network that might be hiring. No worries if this isn’t convenient, I completely understand!
Finally, how are you doing? I’m sure a lot has changed since 2002. I see you’re still in Los Angeles, would love to catch up if you’re in the downtown area on weekdays! If not, hope we can keep in touch via email/phone.
In this tactic, you’re providing context and giving a brief background of what you’ve been up to and where you’re headed. Next, you’re leaving the conversation about them instead of what you need. Lastly, you’re giving them a genuine out. When someone reads a request, they shouldn’t feel obligated. Your tone should let them know, “Hey, no biggie if you can’t help this time. I understand.”
So, what do you have to lose? If you’re actively job seeking, I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and email 5 connections this week to ask if they can make an introduction.
Let me know your progress!