Being a work-at-home mom doesn't have to mean losing your professional connections — or the referrals they may be willing to provide to send more opportunities your way.
In this issue of Working Mom 3.0, writer Stephanie Taylor Christensen offers three ways to score recommendations and keep your connections flourishing from home.
Work-at-home moms face a bevy of challenges: Time is limited, chaos is the norm and co-workers and clients are often across the city, state and, in some cases, the globe. Though networking and building relationships can be challenging when you're a work-at-home mom, it's in your best professional interest to keep your connections thriving. The easiest way to do this is by asking those who have experienced your talents firsthand to give you a public pat on the back! (In fact, one recent study by TribeHR found that employees who received recognition from peers were nearly three times more likely to earn a pay raise). Here are a few ideas on scoring recommendations and referrals from old confidants and new connections.
Heard that flattery gets you everywhere? It applies to professional recommendations, too. The key to scoring mutual recommendations starts with sincerity. Think about impressive peers and clients you've encountered and extend your honest praise for no reason other than to give it. This act of paying it forward doesn't have to become a full-time job on your part: LinkedIn now has a tool that allows you to "endorse" a person's skill set in just seconds, in addition to the written recommendation tool. If you work with a client whose business is listed on an online review site like Yelp, leave your honest assessment of why their service is valuable. Send an unsolicited email praising a person who has made an impression, and tell the recipient they are welcome to share it on a website, marketing collateral or with clients. There is always the chance that the person doesn't follow suit, but in most cases, unsolicited referrals are a pleasant surprise that a person is happy to return.
Most people avoid asking for referrals because it feels like an awkward conversation that puts the recipient on the spot. To ease the tension, time your referral-asking when a client or peer is still in the afterglow of a project gone right. If a co-worker or client is praising the great job you just did, leverage the timing to mention that you would sincerely appreciate the shout-out via email, where you can include the testimonial on a website, or on a tool like LinkedIn, where you can refer other potential clients to view the kudos you've received.
When you do discuss a potential referral with a client or peer, tell them what you're trying to accomplish so that they can provide words that truly boost your professional prowess. If you're looking to attract clients who have little experience working with someone of your skill set, ask your referrer to focus on how you helped them in a similar capacity. If you're trying to capture business from larger competitors, ask the client to address the benefit they found by working with a smaller outfit like yours. The more direction you can provide, the easier the job becomes for the referrer — and the more the referral itself becomes a tool that works to your advantage.
The modern woman is redefining what it means to have a successful career. Rather than feeling torn between climbing the corporate ladder and having a happy family life, many women are choosing to merge the two and transition careers from a traditional role to a more flexible one. Working Mom 3.0 is reinventing the definition of "working mom," as office hours are held at home and revolve around nap times.
This column begins by chronicling the experiences of Stephanie Taylor Christensen, a former marketing professional turned self-employed stay-at-home mom, writer and yoga instructor, as she strives to redefine "having it all" on her own time and terms.
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