What are some good ways to approach getting referrals to top companies I want to apply to? Is it even worth spending the time pursuing the referral, or should I just apply?
Do good work, add value to other people's work and make a great impression. They will remember you. They will refer you because they genuinely want to have you on their team, not because of the referral bonus.
When I joined Facebook back in 2012 (the IPO year), one director said this in private: You already missed the opportunity to make a huge amount of money here (because IPO already happened). There are a lot of amazing people here at Facebook. You want them to remember you when they think of starting their own companies and ask you to be their cofounder. You goal in the next few years should be putting out good work and making a great impression with your colleagues.
I didn't become a cofounder but this turned out to be mostly true. When one of my skip manager at Facebook joined Robinhood as a VP he remembered me and invited me to interview. We met and he was like "since you have offers from other companies already it doesn't hurt to interview with us and have another option if you get the offer, right" He let me skip the phone screen and go straight to onsite to expedite the process. I negotiated hard with the recruiter (also from Facebook) after getting the offer and he was like "I would have stopped talking to you if not for our VP wanting to have you". I negotiated a top of the band (in the level I got) offer in the end.
Think of how many people from your current company will make it to the top companies you want to join. Think of who they are. (They are probably the best people in your current company.) Find ways to work with them and build something great together.
What are some good ways to approach getting referrals to top companies I want to apply to?
There's 2 main ways:
Is it even worth spending the time pursuing the referral, or should I just apply?
If you have a warm referral, you should wait, but if you don't, you should just apply. You want to avoid a situation like this:
Referrals, like networking, are a long-term game. You only win when you put in the work and strive to add value to others. It's hard to find shortcuts to this inherently human system, which is why I don't recommend trying.
Evaluate where you have an unfair advantage:
Use these to decide if it's worth cultivating the relationship.