Written By: Jeanette McConnell, Ph.D.
I had implemented some advanced LinkedIn strategies for PhDs and my profile looked amazing.
The transferable skills I gained during my PhD were highlighted and my experience was written in a results-driven format.
I decided I was ready to start reaching out to people on LinkedIn with the ultimate hope of securing a job referral.
I sent out message after message, but hardly got any responses.
I was confused… I knew my LinkedIn profile was top notch, so why weren’t people responding to me?
Maybe it was a question of quantity.
I purchased a premium membership on LinkedIn so I could send InMails to people who I had no connections with, hoping that the more messages I sent, the larger the probability of hearing a response.
Surely, this wider reach would bring me the results I was looking for.
So, I sent InMails and connection requests to as many people as I could.
Still, I received very few responses.
And those conversations I did have, never seemed to move past the beginning stages and they certainly didn’t yield any referrals.
I had the skills and a great LinkedIn profile, so why weren’t the job referrals flying in? What was I doing wrong?
While I was speaking with one of my previous employers, I mentioned in passing that I was still looking for a job.
Not long after that, I got an email from my former boss, telling me he had a friend that was looking to fill a position that I was well-suited for.
My previous employer referred me to this new company as a great candidate for the position.
Just a week later, I had a new job!
It was a lightbulb moment.
I had been struggling to get responses and job referrals because I was trying to talk to people who did not know me, or anyone in my network.
I had little-to-no credibility with these strangers I was reaching out to on LinkedIn.
But, as soon as I harnessed the power of the network that I already had — success!
I hadn’t realized the untapped potential of networking with people I already knew.
Why A Job Referral Is Essential
A survey by ERE reported that a corporate job opening will attract an average of 250 resumes, of which only one applicant will be offered a position.
Your resume is just one in a sea of hundreds of other applications.
A job referral is the best way to set yourself apart.
According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, candidates with a job referral from an internal employee were 40% more likely to be hired than those without a referral.
When your initial chance of getting hired is one in 250, taking the extra time and effort to get a job referral and increasing your chances of getting hired by 40% is a no-brainer.
Much of this benefit comes from escaping the endless pit that your resume will fall into when you blindly submit an application online.
But another major reason referrals give a job candidate such a big advantage is because referrals are advantageous for the employer as well.
The same study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that new employees hired with a referral are less likely to quit and tend to stay with the company longer than those without a referral, reducing cost and strain on the company.
Plus, many jobs are unadvertised.
As reported in The New York Times, top companies aim for 50% of their new hires to come from direct referrals.
If a company does not have to spend time and energy advertising and sifting through resumes, why would they?
The only way to have access to the ‘hidden’ portion of the job market is through referrals.
5 Simple Steps To Generating Quick Job Referrals
If you are serious about landing the industry job you want, getting a job referral should be high on your priority list.
But, don’t make your job search harder than it needs to be.
It is easier than you think to get job referrals.
You already have the resources to make it happen, you just need to know how to harness those resources.
PhDs have many advantages over other job candidates, and a referral is a great way to make sure you get noticed.
Stand out from the pile of resumes and tap into the unadvertised job market.
Here are 5 steps to quickly generate job referrals…
1. Ditch the idea of getting the perfect connection.
While the CEO or the Director of a company may seem like the right person to seek out for a job referral, they aren’t.
Trying to connect with the CEO of Genentech is akin to trying to connect with Brad Pitt.
People in high-level leadership positions are busy, and it is very unlikely they will interact with you, especially if all you have done is send them a cold email.
If you must reach out to cold contacts, reach out to people with the job title you want and ask if they are willing to do an informational interview.
Your best bet with cold contacts is to talk to people who have started their job within the last two years.
They will have a fresh perspective on the company and are more likely to take the time to help someone out.
But even then, trying to build a relationship from scratch takes time.
To get job referrals fast, you are going to need to reach deep into the network that you already have.
2. Connect with your current network on LinkedIn.
Your current network is bigger than you think.
Connect on LinkedIn with former and current labmates, classmates, workmates, teammates… connect with your family and friends.
Become a part of alumni groups for the universities you attended.
Reach out on LinkedIn to members of any professional groups you belong to.
Connect with the other PhDs in your alternative career mentor network.
The beauty of LinkedIn is that once you are connected with someone, you are now also connected with their entire network.
As you add more people to your connections on LinkedIn, your network will grow exponentially.
This larger network will give you access to people at more companies, and hopefully access to someone who works at your target company.
3. Target employees at the company where you want a job.
Once you have expanded your online network, decide where you want to get a job.
Do an Internet search of the geographical location where you want to work and the type of company where you want to work.
Not sure what industry career would suit you? These alternative careers for PhDs might give you some inspiration.
Maybe you want to work in Seattle for an engineering firm, or in London for a publishing house.
(If a job in life science is your goal, start by looking at these top 4 life science career clusters for PhDs.)
Whatever you decide, search that location and company on LinkedIn.
It will show any 1st or 2nd degree connections you have at that company.
These connections represent people that are already in your network.
They know you or they know someone you know.
This gives you instant credibility that you do not have with cold connections.
The next step is to re-establish your relationship with your valuable connections.
Remember, a valuable connection is not defined as someone with a high-level position, but rather, as a person who works at or is connected to your target company.
4. Provide value.
Always follow the cardinal rule of networking.
Give before you ask.
This is true whether the connection you are reaching out to is an old friend, or an acquaintance you met at a conference last year.
Break the ice and add value by giving them a compliment on a recent achievement, or send them an article you think they would like.
Do not ask for anything in this first message.
The length of your first message is important. The less time you have known someone, the shorter your message should be.
Be succinct and be useful.
Another great way to add value is to introduce two of your connections to each other. For this to work, there needs to be an authentic reason for the introduction.
But, as you know, your network is one of your most valuable assets. By adding a new connection to someone’s network, you are truly adding value.
5. Politely request the referral.
Once you’ve taken the time to cultivate a relationship, you’re ready to take the leap and ask for a referral.
But, before you make the request, ask yourself: Did I add value to this person’s life? Did I establish a genuine connection with them?
If your answer is yes to both of these questions, don’t hesitate to ask for a referral.
Of course, be polite and respect their situation, but do not feel guilty about asking.
Employees are often given large incentives to refer job candidates.
The New York Times reported that large companies like Ernst & Young, Deloitte, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car offer cash incentives, as well as TVs and iPads, for employees who refer new hires.
With a job referral, everybody wins.
You are 40% more likely to be hired, the person who referred you will probably receive a nice bonus, and the company can rest assured that they have hired someone who will not quit any time soon.
The last thing you must remember, whether you get the job or not, is to send a thank-you note to the person who referred you.
This person took an extra step for you, and perhaps that step helped you get a new job.
Take the time to send this person a personalized thank-you note or thank them in another meaningful way.
A job referral doubles your chances of getting an interview and increases the likelihood you will be hired by 40%. So how do you tap into these benefits and get job referrals? By investing in your professional network. Your current network is bigger and more powerful than you think, you just need to leverage it in the right way to get job referrals fast. Add value to those people in your network and create genuine connections with them. This will create opportunities where you can request referrals. PhDs are great candidates for top industry positions, and job referrals will make sure your resume gets noticed.
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