• Learn How to Build a Powerful Personal Brand That Will Differentiate You and Allow You To Compete in the Global Marketplace.
  • How NOT To Ask For Referrals

    Referrals are a key to success throughout your career, no matter what type of work you do. However, many people ask for referrals the wrong way. Consider the following scenario…

    Imagine that you have spent years building a professional relationship with someone who is a leader in your field. Let’s call him John. Over time, a strong, mutual respect has grown between you and John. Then, one day you get an email from a person you have never met before. This person wants to know if you will introduce him to John, your trusted colleague. Would you feel comfortable providing an introduction for this random person to John?

    I recently hosted a webinar for several hundred job-seekers looking to break into the sports industry. Since the webinar, 5 separate people (all individuals that I have never spoken to before) have emailed me to ask for an introduction to someone I know in the sports industry.

    This is how NOT to ask for referrals.

    Before referring you to someone, a person consciously or subconsciously asks himself the following question:

    “Do I like and respect this person enough to put my reputation on the line by introducing him to another person that I trust?”

    If you don’t know the person you are asking for a referral, the answer to this “magic” question will almost always be “no” (regardless of how talented, likable, or trustworthy you may actually be).

    By asking for a referral too soon, you unintentionally look desperate, annoying, and selfish. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but it’s true!  Why should someone put their reputation on the line by providing you with a referral to another person that he has worked hard to build trust with, if he knows nothing about you? The potential reward for helping you is simply much lower than the potential risk of damaging an important relationship.

    Your goal during an initial communication with someone you don’t know should be to build trust and rapport first. It’s actually very easy to do this, no matter how experienced you are. Just take a genuine interest in the other person. Ask for their advice on what you are trying to achieve. Listen to what they have to say. Impress them by asking smart questions that you prepared in advance (and not by bragging about your own achievements). Thank them for their time and advice.

    By doing this, you will be so incredibly different from most job-seekers that you will stand out in a very good way. You will build immediate credibility and earn the right to ask for referrals.

    In summary, referrals will only come after you have passed the “likability and respect test,” not before. Focus on building trust and rapport first, and you will be rewarded in the end.


    Pete Leibman is the Author of the new book titled “I Got My Dream Job and So Can You” (AMACOM, 2012).  His career advice has been featured on Fox, CBS, and CNN, and he is a popular Keynote Speaker at career events for college students and at conferences for people who work with college students.

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