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Don’t Be “That Guy”

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.

12 Responses

    1. Bob,

      I want to emphasize that this type of behavior represents a small minority of job seekers. After going through a job search, most executives come to understand the value in keep their professional networks current. I’ve seen several examples of “that guy” convert to enthusiastic networkers as their careers have progressed.

      Thanks for your thoughts.


  1. Great article – I have been in transition a couple of times in my career and learned quickly that networking is a lifetime activity – now I tell my clients the same thing! Thank you for helping people when you can – I do the same – even if I know I may never hear from that person again – I do it because it’s the right thing to do and maybe they will eventually learn to properly network – Give, give, give and maybe you’ll get!

    1. Sue,

      Thanks for the response. I recognize your name from Jane Von Bergen’s “Wegman’s” article from last Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer. Couldn’t agree more about networking being a lifetime activity. Let me know if we can ever help you in your work with the HBWA.



  2. John- Really like the content of your message, as well as they way you stated it (from your personal experience, yet no grudges). My view is that ALL of business is conducted through relationships. I cannot think of a single effort that can be accomplished solo. If we are not building relationships that are put right in front of us, we are really limiting ourselves. Maybe we all learn this at a different pace….guess for ‘that guy’ it may take some time to come to the realization.

  3. John – This is a really important statement and very helpful. The irony is that it only takes a few minutes to make a connection and be helpful. In my experience even when you can’t actually help someone, spending a few mintues talking and perhaps offering some indirect suggestion or assistance goes a long way.

    Thanks for a great blog.

    1. Bill,

      Thanks for the feedback. I think that the decision to respond to that email or phone call comes down to whether you see your career as a series of unrelated transactions or a series of interconnected relationships.

      Best regards,


  4. I have lived in Austin for 33 years. I have worked for large companies like IBM and Lucent, a couple of startups and even taught high school for a couple of years in the last decade. What I found is when people work for large companies like IBM and Dell (two major employers here) the environment is totally consuming. They put there heads down and work and work and work and…. When they get laid off, which they will eventually, they pop their heads up and go oh sh*t. They start to network find a job and “usually” go back to their old ways.

    Oh well. I have met some where the layoff changed their lives. They found networking brought new friends and a new life.

    I just wrote a whole series on strategic networking that can be found at

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