References can make or break a career opportunity. The contacts that candidates provide are integral in the final stages of the screening process before an official offer is extended. Having at least 2-3 solid, relatively recent, managerial references is usually the last piece of the puzzle necessary to secure your spot back into the work force or into that position you’ve been diligently working towards. Too often we see candidates struggling to pull together even two references to provide a positive professional recommendation. This hole in an applicant’s portfolio tends to be one of the “brightest” red flags to both your recruiter and your potential employer.
This can link back to a lack of motivation to network once you’ve found employment. Networking, at its core, is comprised of two components: 1. building relationships and 2. maintaining them. When we think “networking,” the first thing that comes to mind is likely a designated event filled with awkward interactions, sweaty handshakes, and collecting business cards. While introductions are important – developing existing relationships can carry the most weight. Think quality, not quantity.
In roles that require little interaction in a team or client setting, or permit primarily remote work, it can be especially easy to neglect this piece. It’s important to remember that cultivating relationships in a professional environment is an invaluable supplement for your career, principally if you hope to utilize that connection as an endorsement or an “in” to a new company down the line. The foundation of these relationships is your “product,” (i.e. work ethic, results, achieved goals/metrics), but your presence in the office and the manner in which you’ve interacted with your peers and supervisors is something pursuant employers are without question going to want to hear about.
Your technical ability will take you only so far. Being personable, reliable, and professional will give you the edge and ultimately will lead to a stronger recommendation. For some, this is second nature; and in some roles it’s expected. If not, it’s essential to make a conscious effort to develop an “appropriate but approachable” rapport with your managers and employees. Down the line it’s important to maintain those relationships by staying in touch and reaching out even when you aren’t looking for a favor. In the end your network will be stronger and the job search process will be smoother. When transitioning in this competitive market it’s not always just “who you know,” but how well they know you. And better yet, what they have to say about you.
by Mark McGuire, Technical Recruiter