Personal recommendations have greater risk than reward

linkedinrecommendationsthumbsMost businesspeople agree that referrals and recommendations are the best way to grow your professional network, reputation, and career. Personally I am always flattered when I receive a referral or recommendation from someone I know and respect. And then I think – oh, now I REALLY have to perform.

It’s not that I actually work any harder or differently when recommended or referred than under other circumstances. But I am keenly aware that I have now another stakeholder in the house – the recommender or referrer.   I have learned that it pays to be thoughtful when recommending someone you know to someone else.

Why be careful? I often say that when offering a recommendation, you should not expect any kudos if the recommendation works out well. After all the reason they asked you for a recommendation (since they respect your opinion), is that there’s an expectation that you would not send over an idiot. Of course the recommended person is capable. That’s why they came to you in the first place!

So then there’s the converse. The recommended person messes things up. And worse sometimes handles the situation poorly. A poor reflection on you to be sure and all you were trying to do was to help!

I’m not advocating your suspending making recommendations. I continue to and will continue to offer recommendations when I feel they are appropriately matched and that there’s a high chance of a successful interaction or engagement.

I am suggesting being more thoughtful about your recommendations. When was the last time you spoke with or met the person you are recommending? It does not take long for professional lives to change these days!

A suggestion: You actually could do what I do sometimes which is to offer that ‘I have someone in mind who I feel may be able to help but I’d like to talk with them first to be sure it is a good fit for both parties’. It’s an extra step to be sure, yet I guarantee that you will actually make fewer recommendations once you add this step to the process since you will inevitably run into a few situations where making that recommendation would be the wrong thing. In that case you have done a great job in forestalling an outcome that would hurt all concerned!

The professional (and job-seeking focused) LinkedIn often asks if you would like to recommend fellow professionals with whom you are connected. Be mindful here since that recommendation from 2008 may be much less relevant today than it was at the time. I doubt many LinkedIn users ever go back and un-recommend someone they recommended 6 years ago or more.

Maybe you should take a look again at whom you’ve recommended?   Just a thought.


About markkolier

Futurist, entrepreneur, left lane driver, baseball lover
This entry was posted in Career Development, Networking and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Personal recommendations have greater risk than reward

  1. Peter Mataset says:

    It has been said for a very long time that “word of mouth” is the best advertising channel!!


    • markkolier says:

      And like my father used to say – never put anything in writing that you could say in person or over the phone. Of course that was before we knew the spooks were listening all the time anyway.


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