JFK famously once said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” In the same vein, I say professionals should “ask not what your network can do for you, ask what you can do for your network.”
One of the most amazing features of LinkedIn is the ability for professionals to recommend each other. As little as a decade ago, the only time professionals would ask for & receive feedback was when interviewing for a new job, which for most talented professionals worth hiring is once or at most twice every 5 years. And even then, you would typically only ask for 2-3 recommendations. But think about all the people you’ve interacted with over the last 5 years. What about them? What do they think about you? It’s valuable feedback and worth finding out. The question is: how best to do so?
Although LinkedIn makes it really easy to simply ask for a recommendation, that can be somewhat awkward because a) the person you’re asking might feel obligated to recommend you when they otherwise wouldn’t do so naturally, thereby diluting the value of the recommendation; b) the person you’re asking might not do it, which could leave you filled with self-doubt & wondering why. Sure, most people probably just don’t have the time or pay close enough attention to LinkedIn, but in the back of your mind, that little voice might be thinking, “do they not think highly enough of me to write a short paragraph on my behalf?” And no one wants that thought lingering around…
So instead of asking for recommendations, my approach has typically been to give them. There are hundreds of quotes about the importance of giving in order to receive, and it’s an adage that stands the test of time for a reason. If you think highly enough about someone to proactively write them a recommendation, chances are they’ll appreciate the gesture enough to return the favor. And if they don’t, you’re not really at a loss because you still acted genuinely by sharing honest praise with someone you appreciate, which at the very least, banks you some karma points.
So I’d encourage you to take a moment to think of some of the people you’ve enjoyed working with in your career, and take a few minutes out of your week to let them know why. At best, they’ll return the favor. At worst, you’ll make someone’s day.