A recommendation is an act of trust

I’ve been getting requests for recommendations on LinkedIn.com lately from students and former students and it made me realize that a recommendation is an act of trust–both ways.

My students are trusting that I will say positive things about them that will help them get a job and I will only agree to provide a recommendation if I trust that they are worthy of recommending.  I am not going to put my own reputation on the line for someone who is not a good prospective job candidate.

An article asks how to use social media for employee referrals, but neglects to look at the use of LinkedIn.com recommendations as a source of referrals.  I write recommendations for students because I figure that prospective employers will evaluate them online before they hire them and so a positive evaluation from me will hopefully boost them to the top of an interview or offer list.  If I were hiring, I would definitely look at the recommendations a prospective employee has on their LinkedIn.com profile to give me a sense of that person’s ability and credibility.

Do you use LinkedIn.com recommendations?  Do you ask for them?  Are they helpful to you?


Some LinkedIn recommendations are just like thank-you notes…

I have been blessed by recommendations from my students at Wake Forest University, Meredith College, and Michigan State University.  In thinking more about thank-you notes, I realized that one of my recommendations reads more like a thank-you note than a recommendation.  (Here’s is my recent post about thank-you notes, which has been the most popular post we’ve written in years.)

Ricki was in my retail promotions class at Michigan State and then became my TA for that class the next semester.  I think we hit it off because she is a kind and down-to-earth person, but also because we discovered that we had encountered similar tough times in our lives and felt like kindred spirits.  I realized once again that my role as a teacher is about more than teaching the material in the syllabus.  It is also being able to give students perspective on life, help them discover their strengths, and lead them to new dreams.

I am so proud of her for following her dreams to become a district manager for Acura in California.  When she asked me to be a reference, I was so ready to tell Acura every wonderful thing about her, but they never called.  Thankfully, they already had an earful from all of her other references and offered her the job!  When she shared the  news on Facebook this week, I recalled the kind words she said about me on her Linkedin.com recommendation and realized that it was really a thank-you note she was writing to me.  I don’t think students realize how much those words mean to us as professors. Yes, we teach because we love to teach (and do our research), but deep down, I choose to teach because I hope that I am making a positive difference in my students’ lives.

If you have a teacher or mentor that made a difference to you, let them know.

(Thanks for this cute apple by http://www.cottage-industrialist.com/blog/2009/5/4/teacher-appreciation.html)

Using Social Networking to Enhance Your Career Prospects

There’s a very good column today in today’s Wall Street Journal that discusses the benefits of using social networking tools such as Facebook and LinkedIn to market your talents and capabilities:

Except in the case of bulk hiring positions, employers and recruiters are Googling candidates’ names as well as searching on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, according to Mr. Schawbel. “This is done primarily to ensure the integrity and behavior of candidates and to make their resume piles smaller,” he says.

Kate Ruddon, vice president of talent acquisition at Activision, says that she uses sites like LinkedIn early in the recruiting process. She and her staff use social-networking sites to obtain background on a candidate’s work experience, area of expertise and education. “We utilize a number of professional networking sites and search sites like Google for the purposes of conducting research on a particular candidate, like press information,” she says. “Has the candidate spoken at industry events? Have they received any awards or public recognition? Additionally, we conduct research from multiple sites on specific companies we are targeting to recruit from.”

I am increasingly using my LinkedIn.com page as my online resume and set of references/recommendations, as it’s easy to keep up to date, it’s accessible by a wide variety of professionals, and it allows me to incorporate lots of good biographical information that I can’t easily summarize in a resume or curriculum vitae.  It’s also part of my email signature which aids people in finding out more about me when I first communicate with them.

What is your experience with using social networking and other Web 2.0 tools as part of your career strategy?


How NOT to Ask for a Recommendation!

Karen and I get requests from our current and former students to write recommendations all the time, and increasingly on http://www.linkedin.com.  Most of the time we are happy to do this, to help them in their careers, and because we appreciate being able to solicit recommendations from others ourselves.  However, every once in a while we get solicitations like the following:

Dear Aneil,
Hi everyone,

So, I’m still looking for a position, but I’m trying to be more aggressive on LinkedIn…and this thing says I need some recommendations. If you could, I would love it if some of you could recommend me from our time together.  If you don’t have any time, it’s OK…I understand that many of you are busy with our families and KEEPING your jobs (ha ha), so no worries. But it would be a tremendous help to me as I seek out a job.

Thanks so much, and I hope this email finds you all well…and let me know if I can return the favor!!! Take care!

I wrote back that I couldn’t write a recommendation because I didn’t think I could write a strong enough one that could help the person.  Only in re-reading the request did I notice that it was a generic request sent to lots of people “hi everyone.”  Then, I received this reply after I declined to write the recommendation:

No worries, Aneil. I blasted my entire school list in hopes that someone would be able to give something resembling a recommendation! ha ha

One should ALWAYS peronalize important requests, especially for something so important as a recommendation.  One should also:

1.  Remind the person who you are and what your connection is to the person.

2.  Let them know the purpose of the recommendation (new job, promotion, graduate school application).

3.  Suggest some of the qualities you possess that warrant a recommendation.

4.  Ask the recommender if he or she would like supplemental information, such as a resume.

5.  Thank them for considering your request.

6.  Be polite in response if the person declines to recommend you at this time.  There may be another time when you can make the request again, and you don’t want to offend them by being upset or nonchalant (“no worries”) if they decline.

7.  Thank the person again after they’ve written your recommendation.


Networking is not just for a job, but for life

We met with Emily Meehan, former WSJ reporter last week and asked what she learned writing her 20-something column for the WSJ.  She mentioned that 20-somethings don’t know how to network.  They don’t realize until it is too late that they need to know more people–in related fields or folks who are older than they are in order to network to find that next job.

That is why I will now admit that linkedin.com is a great way to network.  I was skeptical of it in the past, but I’ve come to use it so much that I have started a group for my undergrads and  coach them all to start their linking with me.  That is also why we started a trust network group on linkedin.com as well.  Through our own networking efforts, through this blog, and through our university connections we’ve learned about the power of the network.

Networking is such a negative term, because it sounds like you are some smoozing type of salesman, but the truth is that networking is not just for a job, but it is for life.  You may be pleasantly surprised at the wealth of information, mentoring, and yes, even jobs that will come out of your networking.  You might even make some good friends, too.