Written by: Aditya Sharma, Ph.D.
When I first began networking, I thought it was going to be easy.
I like interacting with people and I could talk about my research for hours — this was going to be a walk in the park.
I attended a few networking events and met lots of great people.
I met people who worked at the companies I was interested in, and people who were in industry roles that I could see myself doing.
It was awesome.
Certainly, I would be getting a job referral soon.
But, nothing happened.
I actually never heard from any of the people I met at those first few events ever again.
I had given them my newly minted professional business cards, and I was sure that my contact details were correct.
So, why didn’t they contact me?
What did I do wrong?
After many more frustrating networking experiences, I learned from one of my mentors that I needed to follow up after the event with people I had met.
That sounded hard and time-consuming.
But, at this point I was getting desperate.
I needed a good job and was willing to try anything to get one.
So, at the next event, I was sure to get other people’s business cards, not just hand out my own.
And, I followed up with the people I met right after the event, and then again a week later.
This led to many informational interviews and ultimately to a couple of referrals.
It was not easy to do.
I spent a lot of time and energy on networking, both in person and online.
But ultimately, it was the online follow-up that got me the referral I needed to get hired into the industry position I wanted.
How Getting A Referral Will Benefit Your Industry Career
The data makes it very clear that referrals are the best way to get hired in industry.
As reported by Silk Road, referrals are the number one source of hires and are routinely how companies bring in the highest quality employees.
Industry companies know how valuable referrals are, and they reward employees who refer successful new hires.
According to a survey by World At Work, 65% of companies have built-in bonus programs for rewarding employees who refer successful job candidates.
Companies want to hire job candidates who come with referrals because they know they are more likely to find high quality employees.
And, having a referral will benefit you in the long-term, too.
PayScale found that job candidates who were referred by a business contact can see up to an $8,200 boost in starting salary!
Having a higher starting salary means that all your future bonuses and raises, which are based on salary, will also be higher.
Plus, getting a referral requires that you get to know someone who works at your target company.
In addition, having a referral means you will learn more about the company culture and can really decide if the company is a good fit for you.
This extra level of company culture research results in higher job satisfaction.
According to Undercover Recruiter, 47% of referred candidates stay at the company where they were hired for at least 3 years, compared with just 14% of people hired through a job board.
A referral benefits both you and your potential employer.
But, what are the best strategies to get a referral?
5 Networking Tips To Earn More Job Referrals On LinkedIn
Recognising the importance of networking is the first step to a successful job search.
The second step is learning how to network — the right way.
Connecting with industry professionals and developing relationships is a skill that you need to practice.
And, as a PhD, you can learn anything.
You’ve got this.
Here are 5 online networking strategies that will help you earn more job referrals…
1. Build a professional relationship with PhDs and non-PhDs in your network.
Networking is all about building relationships.
And, good networking is an exchange of value where both parties are benefiting.
When connecting with someone new, or reconnecting with an acquaintance, it’s important to focus on building up the relationship.
This means that you should not begin your conversation by asking for something.
Instead, find a way to chat with them about something that they are passionate about.
Research them on LinkedIn and on the company website.
Learn everything you can about them so that you can begin to build an actual relationship.
Because, relationships are what lead to referrals.
2. Look at your “shared connection” network on LinkedIn.
The majority of referrals come from what are called “soft connections”.
Soft connections are people who know you through someone else.
On LinkedIn, these are your 2nd connections.
So, a good strategy is to search for people at your target company who are your 2nd connections, and see who you both know.
Then, you can reach out and reconnect with the person you have in common, with the end goal of asking for an introduction.
But, before you ask for an introduction, you need to add value.
To initially reconnect with them, treat it almost like you would a brand new connection.
Do research and find out what is going on in their professional lives now, and find something that you can start a conversation about.
Once you have thoroughly reconnected with this person, you can ask them about making an introduction.
3. Use a PhD-specific networking script to send quality messages.
You are a PhD.
You know the value of data.
So, when you are reaching out to your connections to try and build professional relationships, you should use scripts and adjust them depending on how they perform.
Here are 40 networking scripts, designed specifically for PhDs
Use these as your starting point.
And then, as you reach out to more and more people, adjust the scripts based on what performs the best.
This data-driven approach is a great way to continuously improve your networking efforts and be logical, rather than emotional, when some of your messages are ignored.
Because, not everyone is going to respond to your messages, and that’s okay.
Just keep going and move on to the next opportunity.
4. Connect with other PhDs and non-PhDs who are not in your network yet.
Are you connecting only with other PhDs?
Are you connecting only with people in your field?
Are you connecting only with people who have a specific position?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you need to re-evaluate how you are networking.
One of the most wonderful things about LinkedIn is the great diversity of people who use the platform.
Take advantage of this.
Reach out to people who have a variety of roles in the companies you are targeting.
It’s okay to connect with more than one person at the same company.
And, if you connect with one person and the conversation goes cold, ask them if there is someone else at the company they think would be good for you to speak with.
Not every person you talk to is going to be willing to give you a referral.
You just have to keep moving forward and looking for the right opportunity.
5. Stay in touch by following up and adding PhD-level value.
Networking is only successful if you have a follow-up plan.
Reaching out to 100 people once is less likely to result in you getting a referral than reaching out to 20 people and working toward building relationships with those 20 people.
And, to build a relationship, you need to stay in touch with them.
You can send them occasional messages with information that you think they would enjoy.
You can introduce them to other people in your network.
You can comment on their LinkedIn posts or, if they have a blog, you can leave comments there.
This form of staying in touch adds value to your connection every time you interact with them.
You are consistently reminding them that you exist and that you have value to offer.
Networking is not easy for anyone. In order for your networking efforts to be successful, you need to be strategic, and apply the focus and determination you learned as a PhD. You need to be consistent, and realize that networking is the foundation of your job search and will continue to be a part of your industry career. The right way to network means establishing relationships, looking for shared connections, using a script, broadening the types of people you reach out to, and staying in touch. In the end, it will be a person who makes the choice to hire you or not. So, the earlier you recognize the value of networking — not only to earn you a referral, but to help you succeed in your industry career, as well — the better off you will be.
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