Today I’m going on a little rant. The topic? Professional courtesy.
I am the type of person who likes to connect others. Looking for someone to fill a role? I may know someone. Need more information about an event or person? Got it. That’s why when a message hits any of my 5,000 inboxes via email or social media, I am happy to respond and see what I can do. Now, I may not always have a solution, or I may not give you the answer you were looking for, but rest assured I am going to respond and be pleasant about it. Also, nine times out of 10, the question in my inbox is for me to give something to the other person, and helping them (or a connection of theirs), so there is truly nothing in it for me. I am giving my time to help the other person. So when I take the time to thoughtfully respond what do I usually receive back?
Not a “received.” Or “noted.” Or “I understand.” And certainly not a “thank you.” Just crickets. Silence. Nothing.
Now first, I am not patting myself on the back for helping others. We all do it. This is something I think is a universal problem. Also, I know we get hammered with messages today and our email inboxes pile up, so sometimes saying thank you is not necessary to not clog up one more message. But that’s the case with something you’re emailing a coworker back and forth about and see every day. Not a contact that you only see occasionally or rarely. Or haven’t seen in years.
Call me old fashioned, but if someone responds to your note, you acknowledge it and thank that person for their time, even if it’s not what you wanted to hear.
A recent example: A former colleague of mine messaged me to ask if he could share a resume of a friend of his with me, in case my company was hiring or if I knew of something. I said yes, and he responded and thanked me (great!), and then connected the two of us via email, in which I not only responded, but actually passed it along to some senior colleagues at work, and I let the friend know I did so. He didn’t answer. Then a few weeks later I saw an interesting job pop up within my network, that someone was asking for personal introductions, so I sent along to him, too. And then…nothing. Even if he had no interest or found something else, wouldn’t you think he’d take five seconds and say “Thank you for passing along. I appreciate the help.” Maybe I didn’t phrase my email in the form of a question for him to respond. Regardless, to me that’s unprofessional to not acknowledge that I helped out…TWICE. I am certainly not the be-all-end-all when it comes to networking or finding a job by any means, but I have no interest in continuing to contact him. And if someone ever asks me about him (the world is small, after all), I won’t have anything positive to say. I won’t bash him either, but just some food for thought. My friend Christina and I always joke that when we were first connected years ago she didn’t follow up and I called her out on it (in the nicest way possible) she never forgot it. But she also learned from it. What can I say, tough love!
Speaking of people asking if I know anyone looking for a job…
I get emails and messages like that a lot, or simply see contacts of mine posting opportunities on LinkedIn. And it’s not always job searching, it could be a great new networking opportunity or event. I see those a lot and am always thinking about who I could connect them with. So often, I am left with no one. Why? People don’t follow up to stay top-of-mind. Most of us are very guilty of this (myself included especially the older I get) but we’re all so busy and tied up with our lives and jobs that we often forget to keep up with our contacts. I was connected with someone a couple of years ago who asked to go to lunch, and one piece of advice I gave her (and always give people) is to stay in connection with people you meet, even if they can’t help you right away. This person didn’t have to spend much time, but made sure to check in with me every now and then to let me know how things were going with her search. Or just to send me an article I may be interested in or simply “like” something of mine on social media. It’s so easy, yet so few people do it. This is especially essential for younger professionals and students just starting out. And just because you have a job doesn’t mean you should stop networking. After all, they say the best time to build your network is when you don’t need one.
Is social media to blame because we’re all behind screens? It’s easy to point a finger at it. But even if social didn’t exist, this lack of professional courtesy would still happen from some folks. It’s human nature – some people are just more courteous than others. But to me, that goes a really long way.
So, that’s it…for now. I have many other professional pet peeves for another time. All it takes is a few seconds to say thanks, and that could make a world of difference. Is this dramatic or justified? Let me know what you think in the comments.