It’s easy to get comfortable in a job and neglect to capture the relationships and connections you’ve built – for me it’s LinkedIn, but using whatever product you prefer. Think about work today. You work with a handful or two of colleagues that you really know, but you know a lot more people than that. You’ve interacted with other teams, other departments, and probably external vendors and customers too. If the job ends tomorrow, have you added them to your list?
It’s easy to forget, or decide not to do it. A lot of them seem obvious – of course I know Tom, Dick, and Harry. Often it seems presumptuous to connect with the CIO three levels up that you’ve been to meetings to but don’t go to lunch with. The right way (in my view of course) is to think about the world after you’ve left the job. Years from now you may be researching a potential employer, wouldn’t it be nice to know that a colleague from the past worked there and could put in a word for you? Nothing beats the power of a personal reference from a current employee when you’re interviewing. Don’t forget that a lot of jobs get filled without ever being made public, because someone knows someone that knows someone that has the skills – if they can find you.
My rule of thumb is that if we’ve had a conversation, if I could send an email to them in a couple years and they’d remember me,I should capture that connection. I like to do that a lot the first weeks into a contract because I want to learn more about the people I work with. After that a once or twice a year effort is good. Explore the networks of some of your colleagues to look for people you’ve missed. Think about people you correspond with a lot outside your direct team. Get them cataloged.
Endorsements and recommendations are easier to do at the end of a job,if they know you are leaving – natural if you’re on contract, stickier if you’ve been an employee. Still, once you know you’re leaving, that’s the best time to ask. Send that email asking for the endorsements and the recommendation to your peers and to your boss, and to anyone else that you think you have a relationship strong enough with to ask – and don’t be overly cautious. If you email the CEO for a recommendation odds are its gets deleted, but at worst it will trigger five seconds of “who is this person”. Don’t be dumb about it, but push the margins a little. As soon as you’re gone it’s a lot less likely that you’ll get the connection or get the recommendation, so ask before you leave.
Leaving it all to the end isn’t a great strategy – jobs often end unexpectedly. Annual review time is also the right time to look around and make sure your network is up to date, and to ask your boss to at least endorse you. Get your peers on it too, if you all ask it becomes routine and not a lead-in to the “are you thinking of leaving?” conversation.
Why not take a break right now and update your network? Spend five minutes to see if you can find a few more contacts right there in the same company with you.