Ask Tami #3: Asking for Recommendations From Your Network on LinkedIn

Alexandra asks: How do I ask for recommendations on LinkedIn? I feel awkward reaching out to my network, especially after a long time.

Tami: Well, the first thing I would say is that I would not start out by asking for a recommendation after a long time. I’d instead try to re-establish a connection by asking them for a call to reconnect and get advice. People we’ve worked with and had a good relationship with are generally very willing — even if we haven’t talked to them in a long time — to give us a few minutes to offer advice. So start by asking for some time to reconnect, hear what they are up to and get advice. In your call with them you also want to make sure you spend a few minutes reminiscing about projects you worked on together. First, this builds rapport. But second, it gives you the perfect opportunity to ask for a recommendation — based on the thing you talked about.

I think the best way to get someone to give you a recommendation is to write it yourself. Many people are willing to give recommendations to people they think highly of, but the perceived work of actually writing it can make them procrastinate. (I have a rule actually — when someone asks me to write a recommendation letter I tell them to send me a draft which I will then happily edit and sign.)

When you’ve gotten off the phone take a few minutes to write an email that goes something like this:

“Hey, thank you so much for taking the time to reconnect with me today. It was so great to hear your voice and hear how well you are doing. I really appreciate your advice on how I might focus my job search efforts. Your offer to {if they offered a specific helpful thing, put that here} was really nice. 

I am wondering if you might be open to posting a recommendation for me on LinkedIn? As I ramp up my search I’m very conscious of my profile and want to be sure it reflects the skills and experiences I am bringing to a new job. I was thinking you might feel comfortable focusing on {project you talked about in your call} since you seemed to remember it as well as I did! Below I’ve written a couple of sentences that highlight the contribution I made. If you think this is accurate would you be willing to post it? Of course I would certainly be willing to post a similar recommendation for you about {same or different project} if you would find that helpful.”

This does require you to have a good degree of self-awareness about your skills and strengths. My advice would be to start with people you worked with most recently and most closely and then move out from there. Also, start with peers or, if you were a manager, direct reports. These recommendations are as valuable as those from supervisors. Someone who remembers you as a good boss may be very willing to give you a hand in this way. 

Good luck (and remember to keep going!),

Returning to the paid workforce can be both an exciting and daunting challenge. My work as Executive Director of Path Forward has given me a unique perspective on both sides of the employment equation. I’ve answered questions for thousands of job seekers and I understand their worries. And I have gained insights from HR and talent executives at the more than 75 companies we’ve partnered with. I’m eager to help you leverage this insider advice to help you get back to a fulfilling career. If you’ve got a burning question you’d like me to answer in an upcoming edition of “Ask Tami”, you can ask it using this form.