“The Godfather is a master networker!” I get that all the time, however my friends know that it’s not accurate. Yes, I have 6,000 executives in my Rolodex, however I’m a pretty private person and only work with executives I know personally or by referral. Recently a good friend sent over a referral. This friend has a good heart, and thought he was helping me out. Such a great guy! But the person he sent was not someone I could give quality time…so a bit awkward. Lovely person, but I own two businesses and as my entrepreneur friend Andrea Collier says, “If I’m working on your stuff…I’m not working on my stuff.” As someone that gives and gets referrals every day, thought I would share my model. 

Always Ask First! – Can’t stress this enough. Never, ever connect two people without approval from both sides. Why? Because if one of the people does not have interest, it’s going to get awkward. And very awkward for you since you gave the referral. Occasionally I see something that I believe will be valuable to my clients, so I reach out to see if they have interest. If they approve, I’ll connect them to the service provider. But I always, always, always ask first. 

There MUST be a Strong Value Proposition on BOTH Sides – Why? Because time is the great equalizer. Everyone gets 24 hours a day. You, me, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. In my case, most people are looking for jobs. But Executive Recruiters get people for jobs, not jobs for people. If I get a candidate referral that is an exact match for an open role…bingo! If not, they go in the stable and I’ll call them when I have a role that makes sense. I’m not in a position to chat, network or take meetings with candidates to discuss their career unless I’m actually representing them for a job. Currently have 25 executive searches, and as a one man band, I have to be efficient. Trust me, there is no romance in being an Executive Recruiter during a plague. Tip for sales executives: If someone is not calling you back, your value proposition is not strong enough. Does not matter what you think; only matters what the client thinks. Before making a referral, always think through the value proposition for BOTH parties. 

You Must Personally Vouch for Both Parties – If you can’t do that; don’t make the introduction! It’s frustrating to get a resume by referral that goes something like this, “Don’t know this guy, but he was a friend of Louie who got the resume from George’s veterinarian.” Before you send a referral, ask yourself this question: Are you willing to vouch for them personally?

Mostly Only Bad Things Happen With Referrals – I’ll give you the perfect example. Saw a product that made sense for one of my clients. Made the referral, but the CEO of the product company showed up late for his appointment with my CIO client. No bueno! Since I sent the referral, I looked like a putz. And THAT is why I’m very conservative with referrals and don’t run around connecting people. And THAT is why I’m very conservative with the candidates I represent. If the candidate gets a job offer, awesome. But if they embarrass me with the client (it happens!), it tarnishes my reputation.

LIONS and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! – There ARE master networkers on LinkedIn. They are called LIONs. They connect to everyone. As one of the first users of LinkedIn, I learned my lesson early on. Someone would want to connect, then immediately send an email, “Can you introduce me to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.” If I had $100 for every time that happened, I could retire in Panama. Everyone sells. I get that. I respect that. But we are all working twice as long for half the pay during this Pandemic. I have 100+ personal friends out of work and need to stay laser focused on helping them. If nothing else, I’m the most loyal person you ever met.  

Be a Giver – Here is the best advice I can give you: Be of service. There is a great book called The Giver that talks about this premise of helping others. And I support it 100%, however if you try to help everyone, your life will be one big long fire drill. That is not good for your physical or mental health. Pick your spots.