An “ask” like this creates one of the most awkward dynamics imaginable. Let’s see why.
Every referral earns or spends social capital. In a case like this, unfortunately, there’s plenty of downside, but not much upside. Why? Because every referral carries an implied endorsement - in the case at hand, if the young lady turns out to be a dud, it’s on you.
When confronted with an “ask” of this nature, you need to do a clear-eyed risk analysis. If the downside risk makes you feel the least bit queasy, don’t act against your own self-interest just because you’re too shy to refuse. I mean, what would you say if I asked you to lend your Lamborghini to my teenage nephew for a bush party?
No need to be brutal in refusing. You have a relationship with the asker to protect. Depending on the circumstances, one of these might be helpful:
1. Say “No”, but do it gently. Explain how big the “ask” is - your network is at the core of your business and it is a precious and delicate thing. Mention the Lamborghini if need be.
2. Offer to make a neutral introduction, a community bulletin-board sort of thing: “The daughter of an acquaintance has just broken into the home inspection business and is looking for opportunities. Suzanne would be happy to chat with you and can be reached at 123-456-7890.”
3. Offer to sit down with the young lady to help her develop her own network in the same hardworking fashion that you have done. Be a good mentor, even giving her leads, but make her do the work.
4. If you really have to go out on the limb, do the same due diligence that you would if you were going to hire her yourself. Get and call references, look at her work product, and judge for yourself before you put your credibility on the line.
(If this series has been useful, or you'd like to see a discussion of some other aspect of referrals, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Norman Bowley - www.purposeful.ca