Starting a conversation with a designer to lead to a referral

Hey you guys!

I’m looking for advice as to how I can reach out to a product designer at Microsoft to start a conversation and then lead to being a referral for a position I applied to. This designer has accepted my LinkedIn connections and has liked all my posts and comments since the connection. Any thoughts on how I should reach out to her?

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Sounds like you have great groundwork for a genuine conversation. Send a message that says something like, “Thanks for accepting my connection! The work you’re doing at Microsoft seems fascinating, and I’m especially interested in [project they are working on].” Then ask a question that could lead to a conversation. You could ask about their favorite part about working with a specific tool, or if they think X or Y is better for Z. You could tie it into the types of comments they have been responding to in your feed.

The trick I have heard is, after an exchange or two, ask what the biggest challenge their team is facing. Then using that knowledge, design some kind of pitch of how you could address that challenge with your skillset. You can go back to her, and say you were thinking a lot about that challenge, and you had some ideas. Supposedly, she should know they have an open spot, and refer without you even asking! But failing that, you could mention it if she doesn’t.

One thing to note about Microsoft, they have a specific referral process where you are entered into the system by a recruiter, you can’t apply as an external applicant and be referred after the fact, unless things have changed since I launched their recruiting software ten years ago. Your referral will likely end up being a new application, but I think that will be fine.

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I definitely agree with Alyssa that starting off with a conversation would be a great way to get the ball rolling. In terms of receiving a referral I would definitely think of that as an option but similarly I would look at this individual as a networking block, it seems she may be more a resource as a mentor or an advisor for you as you start your career. One thing I have noticed, is that people always love to help others. I think it wouldn’t hurt to slip it in casually about hopping on a call or video chat sometime in the future because you are curious about how they built their career and you would love some advice before you start yours. If you go straight in for asking for the referral, it may seem a little obvious. Then if you feel comfortable and you have built that relationship I don’t think it would hurt to bring up “I saw this really cool Design job at Microsoft, do you think I would be a good fit, could you help me in preparing for it?”

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