If you’re career-oriented, you probably know how important networking and making the right connections can be. Whether it’s fair or not, hiring directors frequently pursue people that they know, or who have been recommended by others in their circle.
It’s understandable, then, why job-hunters are so keen to use their contacts to perhaps give them a leg up on the competition. But we must remember our etiquette, too, or risk rubbing everyone the wrong way.
A friend of mine who is a successful businesswoman recently took to Twitter to complain that past employees or work contacts were name-dropping her without checking in first. It’s one thing to say “I worked with so-and-so at Company X” in a cover letter, but to imply that a person recommended you or suggested you get in touch is misleading. In my friend’s case, she would frequently hear back from the hiring manager, who would inevitably ask about the job applicant. Many times, the applicant would be someone she barely knew and couldn’t vouch for as an employee. That then puts her in an awkward situation and reflects poorly on the applicant.
It’s always better to ask for a reference first, or to ask if you can mention a person’s name in an introductory email or cover letter. Also, get references from people who truly know your work. Sure, the department head at your last company may have a more impressive title, but it makes more sense to consult your direct supervisor.
Be thoughtful with intros, as well. I love to help others, but in my corporate days I would be wary of being approached by acquaintances with whom I had the most tenuous connections. They would only come out of the woodwork when they needed a job lead, and I never heard from them again.
If you “kinda” know someone whose career you admire, ask if you can buy them a coffee (and don’t be offended if they can’t; people are busy!). You can discuss their career path and they may have insight into opportunities that will be right for you. But don’t be overbearing, and don’t assume that because someone follows you on Twitter or met you once at a neighborhood block party, that they are invested in becoming your personal career counselor.
In short: Always, always ask, but make sure you’re asking the right person. I’ve been lucky to receive client leads from others, but they always came from people I had a real relationship with, not a stranger on LinkedIn. It’s possible to build those relationships, but that takes time.