3 min read

Ask for testimonials, always.

One of the most underrated, most useful habits I've built: When completing some work, leaving a job, etc. ask for testimonials on LinkedIn. I learned this from Sebastian multiple times.

First, when he wrote me my first LinkedIn testimonial, after which I felt compelled to write him one. Not that I was forced to, but it nudged me to do something I've always wanted to do anyway – show my gratitude by telling the world how great he is.

Second, during the GiveGetWin speaking tour we did in the U.S. in 2015, when went around asking and filming audience members for video testimonials.

Finally, as he writes in his book Gateless,

A key skill to learn — and it’s simple and quick, but does need practice — is asking to get testimonials and feedback after work.

This is possibly the single-most critically underused tool among people that have intangible work like management or back-end programming. It’s critically underused because it’s not hard to learn, and the dividends from it are enormous.

Why don’t people do it?  For many people, the idea of asking someone for a reference feels awkward. “Can you, umm, write me a testimonial?”

– Marshall, Sebastian; Zau, Kai. Gateless

So this morning, I wrote down a few todos for myself. Ask Oli for a testimonial. Ask Yasser for a testimonial. etc.

As always, it felt uncomfortable. Did I really do a great job? Won't I put them in an awkward place? Ugh, maybe I don't have to?

One source of this discomfort is feeling like a 'taker' rather than a 'giver.' So what I like to do is write someone a recommendation first. Then say something like, "I'd also appreciate a simple recommendation if you think it's worth writing one for me ;) no pressure though :)"

I hope the result is that only the people who'd love to give me a recommendation gives me one.

So I asked. As they say, ask and you will receive.

This is what a few minutes of discomfort can result to. It does way more for my credibility than if I wrote thousands of words detailing what I could do and what it's like to work with me.

Upon completing some work or leaving a job... Ask for testimonials, always.

Additional notes:

LinkedIn Recommendations section is just the starting point. Once you have it, you can use it everywhere else! I pick the best ones and highlight it in the summary of my description, in the Start Here page of my website, etc.

Someone said, "They don’t mean much. They’re only ever going to be positive, so what could one really learn from them?"

A lot. From a hiring manager perspective, I treat these recommendations similar to calling for references. I listen for what’s not being said. i.e. I only consider raving reviews. If the recommendation contains merely standard stuff everyone hears everywhere, that’s actually a bad sign that the recommender was just being polite.

All this reminds me of this quote from Linchpin (which I read in 2012, when I did not have those):

If you don’t have a résumé, what do you have? How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects? Or a sophisticated project an employer can see or touch? Or a reputation that precedes you? Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up?
Some say, “Well, that’s fine, but I don’t have those.” Yeah, that’s my point. If you don’t have these things, what leads you to believe that you are remarkable, amazing, or just plain spectacular? It sounds to me like if you don’t have more than a résumé, you’ve been brainwashed into compliance. Great jobs, world-class jobs, jobs people kill for—those jobs don’t get filled by people e-mailing in résumés.