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Nagging or Networking?

Q. I've requested a recommendation from two of my old bosses (both from the same company) through LinkedIn. Both have ignored my requests. I did great work at this company and left on very good terms, so I think this is an issue of time for both of them. Do you have any suggestions on how I can follow up with them without seeming like a nag?

A. Having LinkedIn recommendations are of great value to job seekers, people looking for consulting assignments, and those in business development. Many other people find them valuable, or just nice to have. Recommendations, when done well, can be very time consuming to write.

First, when you are asking someone to do you a favor, which writing a recommendation is, I would suggest making a phone call. Without that effort, you have no idea what is going on for the person you are asking. Are they traveling extensively? In the midst of a major project? Dealing with personal issues? They many reasons which would impact their ability to write a recommendation for you, in the timeframe you had hope for.

A conversation also lets you explain why you want a recommendation, and what you hope to have highlighted regarding the work you did, the skills you demonstrated, and how you worked with others. Without your input, recommendations can be very flat and read as if they are a generic set of nice words about anyone. If you don't really need the recommendation (you aren't in a job search) perhaps they don't believe it is worth their effort to write one.

How long ago did you work with these former bosses? Have you waited so long they have a foggy memory of the work you did, or perhaps the strength of your relationship?

If you are confident in the relationships, I suggest you call each person, ask about them, and ask if they would be willing to write you a good recommendation. Let them know why you need it, what you would like it to highlight, and offer to draft or outline some materials for them to make it easier. If they agree, make sure to thank them, tell them when you will get the materials to them, and when you hope to have it back. Before you get off the phone, ask them what you can do for them. Ask how you can help them in their job, or in their personal life, and mean it.

Developing a strong, responsive network is all about mutuality, not nagging.

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