The Career Referral Engine
John Jantsch wrote a book called The Referral Engine that has been a great resource for us here at ITtechExec. Not only does it highlight how to tap into any business’s dream, happy customers who refer you to other potential customers (and thus save you loads of precious marketing dollars), but in the end, it helps you build a company that does more than just “sell” a product, hoping to trick someone into buying it; it gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you built a company full of clients who actually look forward to referring you.
As I was reviewing Jantsch’s book again recently, I began thinking about how corporate professionals could and should apply many of these same principles to their career moves…well before they even start considering their next job search.
One of the biggest issues for most professionals, particularly those a few years into their careers, is learning how to transform from their corporate mindset, which frankly tends to lull us into a stupor, into a more entrepreneurial one, for managing an effective career is really akin to launching your own business with you as the product.
So, let’s look at some principles that Jantsch lays out in his book:
1. Becoming “referrable:
For those of you who find the concept of sales distasteful, then this is the approach for you. The idea is that you position yourself within your company, industry, Google+ circle, LinkedIn group, association network, and so on, as a person people want to refer. In other words, they want to work with you, and they want to do so for the following reasons:
a. You’re consistent.
b. You’re trustworthy.
c. You’re interesting.
d. You know your stuff.
e. You focus on service instead of on achievement.
In my mind, this is really the essence of networking…not meeting tons of people, wowing them with your charisma, and hoping something sticks. Instead, it is recognizing that you are a problem solver, that you have something people need, and that you are the real deal. This “real deal” concept leads to principle #2.
2. Establishing a “core talkable difference”:
There really is nothing better from a professional standpoint than drawing people to you. As a small business owner, having people approach you already respecting the work that you do is like a breath of the freshest air compared with constantly trying to prove your worth, chasing after one potential client after another. The same is true even if you work in the corporate arena. Applying for a promotion and getting it is fine, but having leadership come to you and selecting you first is so much better.
To accomplish this goal, Jantsch suggests developing a “core talkable difference.” This is something, a skill, feature, uniqueness that gives you a competitive advantage because it makes those around you take notice. Again, it is not something you “brag” about per se, but it is something you can demonstrate that sets you apart from all the other software developers, desktop support staff, IT project managers, etc.
Furthermore, this also isn’t about being “nice” or working hard, which isn’t to say that those things aren’t valuable, but remember to think from a business perspective. What is a function you perform or problem that you solve that makes you stand out? It’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel here. Think about an improvement you bring to the environment or industry around you and showcase (talk less, show more) that in some way.
3. Understanding your higher purpose:
People are attracted to those who seem to understand their higher purpose, mostly because we crave that in ourselves. We want to be happy in our careers and to feel like we have a vision for why and what we are doing. For principles #1 and #2 to be genuine, you really need to have principle #3, and that’s where most of us get tripped up. We lack the passion to go with the skill sets that we have, and therefore, we aren’t all that referrable or different, no matter how talented we are.
Whenever I work with job seekers or those considering career transition, one of the toughest things to do is to get them to stop and think about what excites them. They are usually too consumed by fear and desperation to want to do that. Whatever is behind this career move rarely has much to do with finding satisfaction as it is about just getting out of the current situation. As a result, they end up in the “sea” of job seekers, hoping to differentiate themselves somehow, and fast. (Of course, sometimes I end up working with the other end of the spectrum…the dreamers…they have lots of ideas, hopes, and aspirations but often are unwilling to take the first step toward pursuing them. They are often driven by a different type of fear and desperation than the first group, essentially, but they all end up in the same place, out in that “sea.”)
Overall, Jantsch says that for a business to be successful (and for our purposes, a corporate professional), you must enjoy what you do and have a sense of purpose, you must be good at it, and you must be able to convince other people to pay you for it. If any one of these ingredients is lacking, then there’s a good chance the business of your career is stalled or stale, and that you are expending a lot of effort just trying to get noticed.
Get the recipe right, according to Jantsch, and the opportunities will start to come your way.