As you might imagine, I get many calls and emails from people looking for jobs. I do my best to keep up with them and help where I can. On rare occasions where serendipity intervenes, the job seeker actually is a good fit for a current assignment. However, most of the time, I can only help in terms of advice or networking support, both of which I am more than happy to do. I reserve Friday mornings for any job seeker who can get on my calendar. It’s the right thing to do, particularly in this economy.
Service providers are great sources of information and referrals for job seekers. We are in the market on a daily basis and, as part of our responsibilities, we do our best to keep current. Lawyers, accountants, insurance brokers, human resources consultants, etc. – our book and trade is in knowing what changes are afoot before anyone else does. By and large, this community is the job seeker’s friend. While there is no immediate payoff for the service provider, the good ones know that lending a hand is not only the right thing to do, but a great long-term business development strategy. Most job seekers remember this help and are eager to maintain these relationships after they’ve successfully concluded their job searches. However, there is a small minority that doesn’t. If I can offer any executive just one piece of career advice, it would be “don’t be that guy.”
“That guy” only reaches out when he’s lost his job. He’s eager to meet; he’s looking for referrals; he wants your knowledge of the market. He also seems to forget you exist the moment he finds his next job. I have a few “that guys” in my network, but there is one who stands out. He’s been in transition three times over the last 15 years, and those are the only periods where he had any interest in having a dialogue. In each case, we met, I helped and he landed, after which he promptly lost any recollection that we knew one another and wouldn’t return my calls or emails. He just landed again in the past few months and, already, the silence is deafening.
While I hold no particular affinity for Buddhism, I do believe in karma. My feeling is that if you put enough good things out in the world, then good things will come back to you, often from unexpected sources. I don’t keep a scorecard when I help someone out. But, I have to tell you – when I make a referral that leads to an employment opportunity, it’s annoying when I don’t get an acknowledgement of the fact. I’m not asking for business, or a fruit basket, or your firstborn child; a simple “thank you” would suffice. If not a thank you, then I will settle for you returning my call.
My reaction is mild when compared to my peers in professional services. There is no single behavior that more upsets a professional service provider than the one described above. I have a few friends in the business who go ballistic and will write an executive off if they do it, which is a common reaction and can be the kiss of death for the executive’s network. You don’t want to be on an influential service provider’s “do not call” list.
So, if you are “that guy”, I hope you are safe and secure in your current position. Because, if you find yourself in a spot where you need to restart your network, you might find the return calls few and far between.