There’s a lot of conventional wisdom out there about what it really takes to complete a successful job hunt. Some say that first impressions are everything, others believe that you should dress for the job you want instead of the job you have, and still others would tell you that a good cover letter is your greatest strength. One of the more common job searching adages, though, is “it’s all who you know.”

business meeting in cafe

If you buy into this advice, you probably believe that making human connections — and tapping into those connections when it comes time to submit a resume — is the only way to go… and according to LinkedIn, you may be right. Per a blog post from the professional networking giant, nearly 50 percent of recruiters say that referrals are the leading source of quality hires. Job seekers who request a personal referral prior to submitting an application are four times more likely to hear back from a recruiter than those who don’t seek a referral.

“By giving the recruiter and candidate more context about why [a] role is a good fit, the hiring process can be more streamlined,” LinkedIn careers expert Blair Decembrele tells us. “Since recruiters already have the background on a candidate’s specific experience, skills, and interest in a job from a trusted employee at their own company, they can spend more time evaluating whether or not they would be a good fit.”

With this in mind, LinkedIn recently introduced a new Ask for a Referral feature, which will allow job-seeking users to more easily identify via their profile when they have a useful contact within their network and to ask for a referral with the (literal) push of a button. While this tool should be a useful one, Decembrele notes that it’s not really all about who you know. Being a good student of the world you want to work in on an ongoing basis is key, as well.

“While who you know may help you get your foot in the door, staying current in your skillset and knowledgeable about your industry are equally as important,” Decembrele says.

If you’re impressed by the LinkedIn stats on how useful referrals can be in a job search but are worried that your own network is limited, don’t stress. The new LinkedIn Ask for a Referral feature should be a great resource for you, and Decembrele offers these additional tips.

1. Stay in touch with your networkIf you take care of your existing network, you won’t have to stress quite so much about expanding that network down the road. You’ll already have some (human) resources at your fingertips when the time comes for you to seek out guidance… or even a referral. Small gestures like birthday shoutouts and regular coffee meetings go a long way toward showing people that you’re invested in maintaining a relationship with them.

2. Ask for advice. Seek out opportunities to ask for professional wisdom from people IRL or online. “In addition to providing you with great advice on how to navigate your professional journey, you never know — they may also end up being a valuable connection in your career that could even lead to a new opportunity,” Decembrele says.

3. Use the tools at hand. Put social media to work to make sure that you have a full grasp of your existing circle. Start paying closer attention to where your Facebook contacts work and use LinkedIn Search to identify previous coworkers or classmates that might be worth reaching out to. In order to take full advantage of the people you know who might be helpful in a job search, you need to stay on top of what everyone is doing!

4. Find your local community. Explore professional groups in your area to see if there might be some related to your specific industry. Grab a friend and give one of their events a try. One of the best ways to keep your network growing is to put yourself out there whenever possible. You never know who you’ll meet at one of these events who might be able to refer you to your next great job opportunity.

5. Get posting. You update your Facebook and Instagram any time you take an interesting trip or snap a great photo with your friends, and if you’re seriously considering a new job, it’s time to attack your professional network with the same consistency and enthusiasm. Decembrele recommends that you start regularly updating your LinkedIn status, as well as posting articles, videos, and notes about your professional viewpoint to your feed. Don’t be afraid to be creative! Just because LinkedIn is meant to be a professional platform doesn’t mean there’s no room for you to express your personality.

Has the saying “it’s all who you know” played out in your own professional journey? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)