When your LinkedIn network offers you work: contractor etiquette refresher

With agencies being inundated with applications for contract roles due to the covid-19 pandemic surging candidate supply but shrinking demand, winning work via recruiters has become more of a bun fight than a guaranteed strategy for success.

So here, exclusively for ContractorUK, Matt Craven, winning-work expert at The CV & Interview Advisors, shares some alternative tactics to secure temporary work in a still coronavirus-stricken labour market.

Broadly, there are two angles here -- there’s the ‘recommending,’ and then there’s the ‘being recommended’. The latter has obvious and immediate benefits if you are the recipient of the recommendation / introduction, but the former can garner some slower burning, but nevertheless, worthwhile benefits.

Get recommended

One of the golden rules of networking is to manufacture a warm approach to the person you are aiming to connect or communicate with! Whether you are applying for a position online or approaching a potential client as part of your business development strategy, 'cold' selling is always second fiddle to a more personalised approach.

Think of it from a sales perspective. When someone telephones or emails us out of the blue to try and sell something, most people’s natural reaction is to dismiss the approach as an invasion of privacy. On the other hand, if someone is introduced to us, we have more positive feelings and are more likely to listen to the ‘pitch’ coming our way.

Even when making a cold approach to a potential client, trying to find some common ground can tip the balance in your favour. Simple ‘ice-breaker’ tactics such as mentioning a mutual connection, referencing a common business interest or using a piece of intel garnered from your target’s LinkedIn feed all work a treat.

Be a connector

So let’s turn to recommending someone you know. Many hard-nosed business types might wonder why they should bother at all, but aside from the general solidarity of helping your fellow contractors, you can leverage this kind act to your advantage.

This is what I call ‘accumulating networking tokens.’ In the non-virtual world, being owed a favour is always a useful position to be in, and it’s no different with online networking. If you have referred someone useful to one of your LinkedIn connections, they now (theoretically) owe you a favour. In other words, a networking token has been gained!

Full circle

Remember we floated the idea of making a warm approach? Well, this networking token has now created an opportunity to make that warm approach. If at any point in the future, you see a benefit in reaching out to the afore mentioned LinkedIn connection (let’s pretend they are a potential client that you’ve connected with but haven’t had much, if any, dialogue), you can simply reference the fact that you previously recommended someone to them -- and this would constitute a warm approach and facilitate a higher likelihood of a meaningful interaction.

Of course, none of this is rocket science! But what might be obvious etiquette to one person, might be an uncertain world to others.

The etiquette

So, let’s now skip on to that very point. What is the etiquette of all this? Common questions might be along these lines:

  • What’s the etiquette when someone hyperlinks your name to an unknown contact’s post for a job advert or contract spec? And are there similar ‘must-dos’ and ‘don’ts’ if you yourself are linking to someone to a post that is seeking a certain someone?
  • Is it a case of ‘the less said the better,’ when hyperlinking, so the candidate you’re directing a poster to can speak for themselves?
  • Will the mere act of hyperlinking to another LinkedIn profile be taken as a recommendation from you, which could come back to bite you?
  • Should you privately email the person searching for a candidate, to say you in ‘no way are responsible if they don’t work out?’ Or would that harm your friend’s chances?

The best advice I can give here – to all four questions actually, is simply don’t worry too much! I say this because many people talk themselves out of networking for fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. Just be confident in the way you would naturally approach if it were face-to-face, or over the phone, and gain solace in the fact that your intentions are good!

Work on the basis that the more conversations and interactions with LinkedIn connections you have, the more likely it is that opportunities will eventually circulate back to you. The person who hides away, who never connects with anyone, who doesn’t embrace interaction with other people, is massively less likely to attract opportunities than the person who does.

The personal touch

If it’s specifics you’re after, then I’ll speak from personal experience.

I have found that a more personal touch goes a long way. Simply tagging someone feels a bit like those annoying Facebook posts with endless names listed and no meaningful comment contributed to the conversation.

If you are in a rush, then there’s nothing wrong with simply writing a post against or under the job advert or post suggesting that your contact, ‘Jane Doe,’ is an expert in this area and might be worth reaching out to. #

Jane (if she’s worth her salt), should then follow up thanking you for the intro and asking the decision-maker if they would like to schedule a call to discuss.

However, my personal recommendation if you’ve got someone in mind is to take the conversation away from the public post and do a proper introduction along the following lines. (Please note, the below assumes a ‘person’ posted the job advert as opposed to a ‘company’ – if the company posted the advert through a formal job advert, there will be no ‘person’ to do the introduction to).

‘Dear [‘x’], I saw your post on LinkedIn looking for an experienced [‘abc’]. I would like to introduce you to Jane who is highly experienced in [‘abc’]. I worked with Jane at [‘xyz’] and highly rate her. Obviously, I can’t vouch for her being an exact match for your position, but I thought the intro might be useful.’

This could be done via email, copying in both parties, or through LinkedIn’s messaging functionality.

A cautionary tale

Hopefully Jane works out and both parties now owe you a favour! But do be cautious about introducing the wrong person.

I have personally fallen foul of this when I was a little more ‘green’ when it came to networking.

In my haste, I introduced a contact that I didn’t know very well to several people. This individual claimed to be setting up a number of businesses, but turned out to be some kind of Walter Mitty-type character who just wasted a lot of my contacts’ time. And probably created a bad feeling from my contacts towards me, I assume.

Lesson learned and a cautionary tale for anyone reading this and about to recommend someone on LinkedIn!

Further (live) help

If selling yourself in this challenging post-pandemic market is important to you, you may be interested in the ContractorUK LinkedIn Mastery webinar on Monday October 12th at 7.15pm on how to write a high-impact LinkedIn profile. During the session, we will perform a number of live critiques of real-life LinkedIn profiles! You can even submit yours for review by emailing info@cvandinterviewadvisors.co.uk and you can register for the webinar here https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6485064026154642190.

Thursday 8th Oct 2020
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Written by Matt Craven

Matt is the Founder of The CV & Interview Advisors and Linked-In-Credible. He is considered to be a thought-leader in Personal Branding and is regularly engaged as a public speaker to deliver advice and guidance to global audiences on all things related to CV authoring, career advancement, LinkedIn, personal branding and thought leadership.
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