I was recently asked about how to use another person’s name (referral) in one’s networking efforts. When using another’s name in your networking efforts – you are tapping his/her reputation – his/her personal brand – to help open doors for you.
 While having referrals are like gold when networking, it is important to remember some tips.

  • Ask permission: When using a person’s name as a referral, the networker should be absolutely sure the referer approves.  Many times this step is covered when one is meeting with the original contact who may say, “Reach out to Bob Johnson and tell him I gave you his information.”  If it is not 100% clear, be sure to check with your original contact, “Mr. Smith, when I reach out to Bob Johnson, do you mind if I mentioned your name and the course of our conversation today?”
  • Lead with the referral: In your outreach to the secondary contact, be sure to mention the referring person’s name in the opening line.  ”I recently met with John Smith to discuss my job search and he recommended I reach out to you.” I often include this information in my subject line of an email “Referral from John Smith”.  By leading with the referring contact’s name, you increase the chances of your email being read/call being taken.  When you do use your contact’s name, you tap the powerful brand that your referer has developed to help your efforts.
  • Follow-up with Mr. Smith: After you initiate contact with the secondary contact, be sure to follow-up with your initial contact.  ”I wanted to let you know that I reached out to Bob Johnson today and we will be meeting on next Monday for coffee. Thank you for the referral.”  Be sure to follow-up again after the meeting to complete the referral cycle. This action will help you develop the reputation of someone who treats other’s with respect – not a bad beginning to building your own brand among your contacts.

It is important to treat referrals with the care and respect they deserve.  When one person refers another to a third-party, the referring individual places her reputation behind you.  This is a powerful act and requires a leap of faith, be careful when using a referral and you will reap benefits from the initial relationship for the rest of your career.


Kevin Monahan is the Associate Director of the Notre Dame Career Center.  In this role, he leads the center’s  employer relations efforts in addition to coaching young professionals in career management and career change capacities. He combines career consulting services with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituencies.  He is the author of the Career Seeker’s Guide blog.