One day, the phone just stopped ringing?
At first, you may not have noticed it. You were too busy applying to online job postings like all unsuspecting job seekers do. But then the one job opportunity you had gets filled with another candidate. Now you have no other job leads and your opportunity pipeline is now empty. Suddenly you realized that it had been quite some time since any new opportunities were referred to you. Does this sound familiar?
Whether you’ve been in looking for a job for 1 month or 10+ months, it can take you by surprise when referrals suddenly dry up. When your job search is thriving, referrals routinely arrive from friends who say they heard about an opportunity or someone thinks of you and passes along your name for a job that matches your background. If those types of things are not happening, you have a big problem. Without leads and referrals, you’ll have to work much harder to get a new job. Want proof? Think back in time about all the jobs you had in your career – how did you find them? Of course, it was through a friend or networking relationship!
But where have your referrals gone? You may need to put on your detective hat and do some sleuthing to find out. Here are some of the most common reasons why referrals disappear, and what you can do to get them back.
1. You’ve dropped out of sight. When was the last time you attended a networking event? Volunteered on a committee? Wrote an article? Spoke in public? If you stop being visible in your target market or professional community, people forget about you very quickly.
Clues: The only appointment in your calendar this week is to get your teeth cleaned at the dentist. When you run into a friend or colleague, they say, “How are you? I haven’t heard from you in a long time?”
Solution: Make it a point to complete FIVE (5) new job search activities every day to keep you visible and in front of more people. Do the math – that’s 25 new job search activities every week! Hint: Sending an email and hoping the phone rings is NOT the right type of activity.
2. Your network has stopped expanding. When your contacts are limited to people you already know, your referrals are limited to only the people that THEY know. Without anyone new in the circle, there’s nowhere for fresh referrals to come from.
Clues: You haven’t added any new names to your contact database in months. You don’t double-back and follow up with your network to stimulate more referrals, because you’ve already talked to everyone you know.
Solution: Ask the people you already know to introduce you to any of their contacts who might be helpful. Follow up and make appointments to meet and spend some time getting to know these new folks. Then they will become your contacts, too, and your network will automatically expand. Your goal is to secure 3 new referrals from everyone you meet.
3. You’re networking with the wrong people. Perhaps the people you meet are not really connectors that have do not have deep rolodexes and can’t help you?
Clues: You’re in touch with the same old people on a regular basis, but no one is referring leads and job opportunities to you. When a get a dead-end referral you lose interest, drag your feet and/or never follow up on it and lose more momentum.
Solution: Identify categories of people who have regular contacts with your target market, and are likely to encounter job leads that fit your background. For instance, focusing on industry specific people who have many business relationships with companies that you have targeted to pursue. You will be more likely to get referrals from networking with attorneys, accountants and financial planners and other similar service providers.
4. People don’t know you are looking for a job. Bottom line: You will never get referrals if you keep your search a secret.
Clues: You hear that one of your former co-workers just got a great new job with a competing company. Someone tells you, “I didn’t know you were unemployed – how long have you been looking?”
Solution: Reach out to all of the people you know especially the most successful contacts. Tell your brief job search story and (important part) ask them “How can I help you? Return all phone calls and emails promptly. Return the favor and refer them on to someone else you trust, then REALLY THANK the person who has helped you along the way. Hint: Forget email…you need to write hand-written thank you notes. This will encourage your contacts to keep referring you leads and introductions in the future, because they know their referrals will always be acted on by you quickly.
Don’t just be a taker – Focus on giving! People always remember how you treat them and you want to be remembered when the time is right. In order to keep a constant flow of referrals coming, you need to give your referral-building activities the same high-quality, consistent attention you give to your family and best friends.
Conclusion: The secret to avoiding the “feast or famine” networking cycles that plagues many job seekers is to stay visible instead of hunkering down in your office waiting for the phone to ring. You need to make a better plan to increase your face-to-face meetings and nurture your network for the rest of your career and life.
Mark’s Moral: “It’s not what you know or who you know. It’s who knows you and what they are saying about you that matters most.”