Few weeks ago, my manager asked me if I knew anyone who would be a good fit for a job opportunity he had open.

In my head, a few names popped up, but I decided to recommend a single friend first over others for this unique opportunity. I even went out of my way to write a short paragraph about his achievements.

And that friend ended up landing the job, despite not having the relevant work experience!

This made me reflect:

  • Why did my manager come to me to ask for my referral?
  • What traits about my friend made me choose him over others for this opportunity?
  • How can I replicate (1) & (2) for myself in others, and have more referral opportunities come my way?

However, 85% of people find their jobs through some sort of networking. Optimising your network so that your existing connections refer you to as much opportunities as possible is vital in accelerating your career path.

While networking with hiring managers is an important part of getting referrals, we want to share with you how you can get 10x more referred opportunities without needing to meet a single new person.

1: Why your network is 10x bigger than you think

Varying studies show that on average, a person’s warm network ranges somewhere between 160-600 people.

But it’s not all about who you know, but also about who your connections know.

Warm referrals can perform miracles in landing a job, getting an introduction to someone or any other opportunities.

Without it, every online application you fill out and cold email you send gets left with luck.

Even with a conservative estimate of an average person only having 160 warm connections, then you actually have 160×160=25,600 people in your reach.

In reality, this will be a lot less since there will be overlaps between your connection’s connections. But this goes to prove that the pie is a lot bigger than you think.

We call these people, the connections of our connections “2nd degree connections”.

The aim of the game is to not only have your first degree connections refer you, but also have referrals coming from your 2nd degree connections.

This will literally 10x the number of referrals in your reach. And you won’t need to reach out to a single new person.

My friend from the story I mentioned at the beginning would not have landed the job if he only relied on his first degree connection, me. He also needed his second degree connection, my manager.

2: How to increase your visibility in your network

For this strategy to work, we need our first degree connections to actively refer us any opportunities that they get referred to.

In reality, most people don’t have 160 people around us waiting to pass on their referrals to us.

How can we increase our visibility within our network so that we can immediately pop in to our connections’ minds when an opportunity does arise, like how my friend did for me?

There are 3 things about my friend that made me recommend him over others:

  • Even though he didn’t have the relevant experience, I knew he was a smart and hardworking individual.
  • I knew he was actively looking for a similar role.
  • Last but not least, I caught up with him regularly, maybe once or twice each month.

These points might seem obvious, each of them plays a really important in making someone refer you for a job.

Referring someone isn’t an easy thing.

First, they need to get over the psychological barrier of doing so, (in other words, actually be bothered to contact you and speak to their connections on your behalf) which is stronger than most people assume.

Second, by referring you, your connection is risking their reputation with their connections for you. If you turn out to be a mediocre candidate, they might never receive another referral opportunity from their connections again. They need to have a strong level of trust in your abilities.

Even if they come across a perfect opportunity lined up for you, they might decide not to contact you if you don’t position yourself right. And it’s nothing personal.

To increase our visibility among our connections, start with these action items:

  • Check in regularly with your connections so that they actually remember you. We may be connected to 160 people, but doesn’t mean we are always thinking about all of them and their needs.
  • Be vocal about what you want. If you don’t speak up, even your best friend cannot refer you to the right opportunities.
  • Build a great reputation around the people you know. Work hard, speak authentically and share your achievements modestly.

You might be thinking: “This is impossible to do with all 160 people!” And you’re right.

Actively writing on platforms like LinkedIn will certainly get you far, but nothing beats a true personal connection.

You can’t be everyone’s friend. We have to be selective of who we choose.

Think about who the key decision-makers are, like hiring managers, team leaders and founders. Who in your network is most connected to these individuals?

3: The worst thing you can do in networking is try to network

In the end, the worst thing you can do to your connections are by trying to “network” with them.

No one wants to be “networked”. Humans are great bullsh*t detectors.

Don’t go out there asking for a favour from that friend you haven’t spoken to since first year.

If you’ve been doing the hard work and spent the last few years providing value to the community around you, people will be excited to help you when you reach out for support.

If not, start now. There is no shortcut in building a great reputation.

Here is how you can start:

  • Mentor those who are more junior than you
  • Help your friends find the opportunities they are after
  • Always produce work that you are proud of. Someone is always silently judging.
  • Always stay self-critical and seek for objective feedback, not for the sake of asking, but for the sake of your improvement

Finally, remember that this is a never ending process. It takes a lot shorter to lose your reputation than to build it.

If you have any questions or opinions on this topic, we would love to hear them at hello@nextchapter.site.

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Blake Im

Blake is a co-founder of Next Chapter and current data science and decisions co-op scholar. Outside of Next Chapter, he's an investment intern at OIF, with previous track records at companies like J.P. Morgan and Westpac.