Many CEdMA members requested a follow up from the LinkedIn profile session at the 2019 CEdMA Training Leadership Conference in Nashville.
Here are the answers to your questions:
- Sima, do I really need recommendations? Maybe.
It depends on your career goals and aspirations. As a high-tech marketer in the Silicon Prairie called Chicago, my career was nothing if not volatile. I saw recommendations as a way to shore up my career story and help recruiters and hiring managers quickly understand and believe my value. Later, when I began to pivot to independent consultant and then keynote speaker, I believed that recommendations provided the social proof that although I was new, I was a safe bet. You decide – what do others need to know and believe about you and your work?
- Do people read them? Definitely.
I have heard too many people tell me it’s one of the first sections they read to call it a fluke. Potential clients, recruiters, hiring managers, co-workers… they tell me they’re trying to get a sense of what you bring to the table from third party sources.
- Is there a good way to ask? I feel awkward; I worry that they’ll say no or think I’m too aggressive...
Let me address this in reverse order – you need not worry about asking someone for a recommendation. That’s part of your job as driven, committed career professional – to make sure others can easily and quickly understand what it is you do, and the fact that you’re darned good at it. Is there a “right way” to request a recommendation? In my experience, there are indeed some best practices that increase your odds of getting an on-brand recommendation from anyone you ask. Here’s my formula for success:
Who to Ask
Almost anyone can write you a recommendation. I have recommendations from colleagues, supervisors, clients, college professors, even people I volunteer with. A fellow CEdMA members who served on the Board alongside you can most definitely attest to your leadership skills!
Where to Ask
Personal email, hallway conversation, phone chat, Slack… chose the medium that best fits the relationship you have with the person you’re approaching. You’ll know what feels right. But always follow-up by sending a formal LinkedIn request for recommendation. Why? Many willing recommenders are simply not familiar with this LinkedIn functionality; making them look for it is a barrier to success. Let them know that you’ll follow up online, and they’ll find a link in their inbox.
How to Prepare
Before you approach someone for a recommendation, first decide what skills or areas of your expertise you want them to promote. This is critical. Too many people lob an open-ended request and wonder why they never get a response. I’ll tell you why:
- Leaving the “what” out of the ask makes it a difficult task for someone who likes you, respects you… knows all that you’re capable of. It’s overwhelming! How can possibly summarize all of your awesomeness in a few short sentences?
- Many people are uncomfortable writing public online posts. They think of themselves as poor writers and fear they will sound stupid. In my experience this is a sub-conscious barrier but a prevalent one.
- Another reason is that people are afraid to disappoint you. They want you to love whatever they write; they may even ask you to write it for them. I actually did that once, against my better judgment, and it felt so hinky to me that I eventually took it down.
Pick one to three skills and areas of expertise that you want to showcase; make the task easy, keep the ask small, give them an out, and then watch the recommendations roll in.
What to Say
Avoid using the generic LinkedIn language. Personalize your note and keep it short. Include one to three skills or areas of expertise so the writer can quickly focus. And give them an easy out – casual language and a loose timeline takes the perceived pressure off. Here’s language that I often use:
“Sarah, thanks for agreeing to write a recommendation for me. As I said, I’m just looking for a sentence or two about my ability to deliver social selling training that actually moved your salesforce to action. There’s no real rush – anytime in the new few weeks would be great. And if for any reason you’re uncomfortable moving forward, please – no worries, there others I can ask.”
The Most Important Tip of All…
Your job is to ask. That’s it. Then you LET GO of the OUTCOME!
What does it mean if they don’t respond? ABSOLUTELY nothing. They’re busy. They don’t trust themselves to do a good job. They’re looking after a sick child or parent. Their own job is in jeopardy. They forgot. They feel clumsy on LinkedIn. They remembered, had an idea of what to say, and then they forgot again.
It’s never ever about you. I promise, okay? Just ask and let the people who know your awesomeness help you tell your story.
I hope you find this framework helpful. If you have any questions, referrals or ideas just drop me a line at Sima@SimaDahl.com or ring 312-884-1888 – I’m here to help!
Sima Dahl is a branding visionary who will revolutionize the way you think about generating demand for you and what you do. Her early career as an award-winning marketer paved the way for Sway Factor™, her ground-breaking approach to self-promotion that helps strengthen business and employer brands too. An award-winning keynote speaker, corporate trainer and coach, Sima has graced stages from Boston to Budapest and worked with clients for to Zebra Technologies to help people and businesses grow. With bold candor, unfiltered honesty and her signature charismatic style, Sima will challenge you to stand out, stay relevant, and be in demand. Learn more at SimaDahl.com.