I am an HR consultant. To the untrained eye, that might look like I’m a recruiter, or someone who helps people figure out how to find the right job. But that’s not really what I do for my clients, even though I really think that work is important and valuable, and I highly respect my colleagues who perform that critical function.
I’ve found myself recently crossing that line between talking with really good friends and close colleagues about career strategy and getting meeting requests from people I barely know or just met, to help them with their careers. I often feel like I am giving scattershot advice, and I don’t know how to help them along in their personal journeys toward a rewarding career choice, because I don’t know them well enough and don’t have the tools available that my colleagues have to help identify strengths, tendencies and archetypes. I know what I would want to do, but not everyone is like me. I also don’t have time for a bunch of follow up conversations, which people in transition really need. It feels like I am letting them down when I can’t just jump on every request or question they have, because I am trying to do paid work for my own clients.
When I started thinking it through, I realized that the best choice is really clear. My network has all of the answers that transitioning job seekers need!
When someone recommends, “You need to talk to so and so, he knows everyone,” or “my coworker such and such, she has a great eye for personal branding,” that is a start. It makes sense to go ahead and reach out to that person. But the next question shouldn’t be, “When can we meet for coffee?” but instead should be, “do you know of a good transition coach you would trust with your career?”
I am a lucky, lucky member of the #HRTribe and I know several amazingly effective and talented professionals I could call, located all over the U.S., if I needed transition coaching. I would contact any one of them immediately if I find myself in need of that assistance. Many folks who know my work understand I am not a career coach. I fear I am not up to the task, and this kind of work doesn’t feed my passion. That said, if we work with one another, as volunteers or on work projects, we are in the same network and know many of the same people. I will go to bat for you and recommend you, and I will send you job leads and get you in the back door all I can. Beyond our connection, that is just good business, because you get a great new job, and the people I know get a great new employee. Everyone feels good about that result!
But the bottom line is that people like me are touchpoints in the job search process, but we can’t be your primary way to get a job. My advice: don’t trust your career to half-hour phone conversations you are having with referrals adjacent to your network, who don’t know the superstar quality of your work, the depth of your values or the fire of your passions. These random calls don’t benefit you or the people you’re talking with as much as you hope they will, because they lack alignment with a real career strategy. Also, the people you set up calls with are busy, and they may even resent your intrusion on their schedules unless they are personally looking to hire someone like you now or in the near future.
The exception? An offer of help should ALWAYS be accepted. There is no such thing from me as a disingenuous offer. If I offer to help someone, that means I have already considered what I can do and am willing to spend time talking about how I can assist.
How do you help your network get a leg up in their job searches? Share with me and we will help everyone up their transition game.