Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Developing Mutual Referral Relationships

Recently, on one of the resume writing professional association e-lists, there was a discussion about a client who seemed to be depressed and unable to find work because of this. The resume writer was trying to find a way to help the client, but realized she was not a mental health professional with the skills necessary to help this client overcome his depression and get working on his job search.

I'd like to offer you an idea of how you can help this type of client -- and help yourself develop a potential source of referrals at the same time: Develop a mutual referral relationship with a (mental health therapist) career counselor.

One place to start is your Yellow Pages -- look under "Counselors". Look for ones who list Career Counseling (or Career Coaching or Career Testing or Personal Coaching or Goal Attainment) as one of their specialties (If they offer career testing, such as the Myers-Briggs or other career tests, that can be a bonus, because you can refer the client for that -- "I think you'd benefit from having a career assessment test done, to assure we're targeting the kinds of jobs that you'd be most suited for).

NOTE: There is also a section in the phone book titled, "CAREER COUNSELING." If you call any of these services, assure that they are mental health therapists, and not just fee-for-service employment services (often, your competitors). For example, in Omaha, Voyager Career Solutions (like a Bernard Haldane & Associates) is listed in Career Counseling (but not under "COUNSELORS" because counselors are mental health professionals who must be licensed in the state of Nebraska).

Call and introduce yourself to the therapist. Ask if you can meet with him or her for a few minutes to get an idea of the services he/she provides and to pick up some of his/her brochures and business cards for making referrals to him/her. Tell him/her what you do and that you want to be able to refer clients to him/her who are in need of services beyond your scope of services. (Add him/her to your mailing list for your client newsletter too).

While I was in college, I worked at a local mental health counseling agency. One of the therapists there did career testing and career counseling. When I started my resume writing business, she was (and still is!) a fabulous source of referrals. Obviously, she's not competition, because she doesn't write resumes. I'm not a true "career coach" although I sometimes coach my clients. We collaborate on "action plans" for our mutual clients -- she gives them direction, ideas, motivation and support -- I put the plans into action (resumes, cover letters, electronic resume distribution). You can cultivate multiple relationships like this. She and I also offered a free joint morning seminar on "Career Power" that attracted media attention and prospective clients.

But start developing these relationships now, before you need it. Then you can confidently recommend these professionals to your clients when the time comes.

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