Referrals: A Boost to Your Career Search

By: Michael

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know?’ Check out this article by CNN, where they focus on this very question. In this article, CNN takes the time to explain that it isn’t just who you know, but that there are a variety of other factors that come into play, such as how you know them, how well you connected, and whether they are a respected member of the organization. After my previous internship experience, I have been spending a lot more time networking and relying heavily on the ‘who you know’ aspect of things. It has helped me narrowly define the companies and careers I want to apply for as I approach my graduation this December.


A perfect example is one that occurred very recently. I had met with a good friend of mine whom I went to high school with and inquired about his position as a credit analyst and that I was graduating soon. He was dismayed to tell me that if only I had asked him a couple months prior, there was a position open that I could have applied for. This discussion occurred at the beginning of the summer, but two months later I received a message on LinkedIn from his manager notifying that my friend had referred me and asked if I would send my Resume. I scheduled an interview that next week.

Another example was when I was applying for an internship through Minnesota Power. Although I did not receive the position, I met a lot of valuable contacts through referrals from one of my classmates who had interned there previously. I ended up going through informational interviews and even getting a referral for the position.

The most important lesson I take from this idea of ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ is that it is important to connect with others while networking, and I mean really connect. The more you get to know a potential reference while networking, the more valuable and viable their recommendations of you will be. I know that many of you will probably be attending the upcoming job fairs this fall, and my advice to you is this: take some time to research exactly which companies you are interested in talking to, don’t try to rush from table to table, take as much time as you can at an individual company’s table and make sure to get business cards to follow up with potential contacts. Be open, talk about your interests, why you want to work for the company, etc. Try not to focus on meeting the most contacts, but focus more on having a pool of contacts that have a much clearer idea of who you are. That’s how you will get to that next step towards your dream job: The Interview.

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