Be Careful When Using Your Social Network as Part of Your Career

Social network in a course (2011) © by hanspoldoja

One of the most effective ways to boost your career and grow your business is to make use of your social network. This can be done with an online social network, as well as with an in-person social network. Your network can be a great career booster, since you can leverage who you know into a job — or at least an introduction to someone who can get you a job.

You have to be careful, though. Sometimes using your social network to find work can backfire on you. Additionally, helping members of your social network to find a job can also be a real problem, resulting in reputation damage.

Getting Stuck in a Job

One of the biggest problems with relying on your social network to help you find a job is that you could wind up getting stuck in a career you didn’t actually want. A friend may recommend you for a job, and you might feel guilty about leaving. You might take the job, not knowing what it entails, and then be disappointed when it doesn’t meet expectations. Or, something better might come along. However, if you quit, your friend’s reputation is on the line. He or she might get mad at you because your leaving can put them in a bad spot. At the very least, your friend went through the effort to get you hired, and you just left — throwing that work away.

Before you accept help from someone in your social network, make sure that you understand what the job entails, and make sure your friend understands what you are looking for. You want the opportunity to be a good fit, so it’s important to talk expectations, including how long you expect to remain with the job.

Another problem is that you might feel pressure to perform. What happens if you turn out to be a disappointment? You don’t want to disappoint your friend, or make him or her look foolish in front of co-workers and bosses. This can put stress on you, and cause other problems in your life. In some cases, problems at work can destroy a friendship.

Recommending Others Can Backfire

Once, I recommended a member of my social network for a job that I didn’t have time to do. I found out that the person I recommended engaged in some unethical behavior as part of the assignment. The client was understandably upset — and hasn’t contacted me since. I was disappointed in my social connection, and I lost business on top of it. My recommendation had a financial impact on me, as well as a limited impact on my reputation.

Making a recommendation is a big deal. Before you recommend someone for any job, make sure that you are sure you feel good about that person. Don’t recommend someone you don’t think will be a good fit, or that you don’t think will do a good job.

Using your social network can be a good way to hear of job openings, as well as help others advance in their careers. However, you have to be careful. In some cases, you could do more harm than good.

What are your experiences using your social network?

13 thoughts on “Be Careful When Using Your Social Network as Part of Your Career

  1. We too have been burned when recommending friends and family. We are very careful now and will often try to help our friends/family get a job without actually recommending them. (ie; My brother has done some work like that in the past. I can get you his contact information if you’d like to speak with him further about his experience. ) This has worked out much better for us. With my own employer where I am management I am just blatantly honest and will tell them that my relative is looking for a job and here are the reasons they might be good and here are some of their weaknesses. They are usually still willing to interview them/ give them a trial run and my reputation is not at all on the line.

  2. All of the points made are good ones. I think that you should have a clear understanding of what is expected and discuss things with the people who are helping you get a job. I would never recommend a person for a job where I know my neck was on the line. But thats just me. If a friend recommends me for a job I let them know what I am looking in aspects of pay and career goals. And if I dont like it I let them know so they are surprised or look bad.

  3. I don’t think that in today’s economy an employer will look negatively toward the person who made the recommendation. Ultimately, it’s up to the employer to decide if they want to hire someone you recommend. In no way should a friend leaving the work place reflect poorly on the recommenders judgement. And if it does and the employer gives you grief, I’d be looking for another job ASAP. I can’t work for a boss who is going to look bad on me for making a recommendation that turned out to be a flake (out of my control!).

    On the otherhand, before recommending a friend to my workplace, I’d think about a few things:

    a) Do I really want to work with this person? Even if they aren’t in the same department, working for the same company might be weird and change the relationship/friendship.

    b) Do I really know this person’s work ethic? If I’ve been friends with them for years and years and have no idea how they are on the job, I’d think twice about recommending them. While I say an employer should NOT look negatively on you for making the recommendation, it can happen. Plus, what if your friend ends up slacking and starts arguing with you outside of work hours about how you and your productivity are making him/her look bad. How would you handle that?

    c) When in doubt, don’t recommend the job to them. Help them out in other job seeking ways so they feel like you are helping (if you are true friends). If they ever find out you had a job opening at your place of employment, play it off like you didn’t know about the position opening until it was too late. OR you could always recommend they go work for your EX-boss. Your EX-boss probably already hates you so that relationship is already bad and cannot get worse. And your friend doesn’t have to mention that they know you (or else they probably won’t get the job).

  4. I always try to keep these lines clear. I have helped friends look for a job before and suggested some companies to try but I have only offered to be a reference or contact for very few. You have to be really careful like you mentioned to make sure you that you aren’t putting yourself at risk. Plus, just because you are friends with a person or related to them and know them well, doesn’t mean you know their work ethic. Those two lives are very separate.

  5. Thanks for the great suggestions on what to do as part of recommending — or not recommending — a friend. What’s really hard, I think, is when someone you like (but wouldn’t recommend) asks for help. That can be difficult. I like suggestions here about helping in other ways.

  6. These are smart and thoughtful tips. You definitely have to a rapport with the people who you decide to recommend or it could definitely end up biting you in the butt. Use discretion when referring or using a referral!

  7. This is so true – I’m always scared of asking for a recommendation from somebody within an organization in case I start working there and hate it – you never know what you’ll like until you do it, and I’d feel terrible putting somebody through the trouble to recommend me and then leaving.

    But, as you’d mentioned, a network is the best way to establish yourself and grow!

  8. This is very timely for me as I am currently being recommended for a position where my friend works. He does have intimate knowledge of how I work because I have worked directly for him before but these tips are good to keep in mind so that everybody’s expectation remain in check!

  9. I have run into these problems in the past. Specifically, when I was young, someone referred me for a job that I ended up hating. I quit after a short while, and the person was none to happy as she had vouched for me.

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