Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Connections and Use your manners!

Today, kids (Gen Y) are much more apt to think about "who they know" or more specifically, "who their parents know" or "who their friends' parents know" or "who their parents' friends know" when it comes to job hunting. Unlike our generation, when a lot of us resisted those parental "connections"...(why were we like that? What were we thinking? It probably was the residual of "anti-establishment" stuff, I don't know. But I do remember that if my parents suggested I call some one of their friends or tried to encourage me to go "across the street" and talk to a neighbor, because they worked for a company that had a good "management training program", I basically said, "thanks, but no thanks. I can do this on my own.") In retrospect, foolish.

Here's the catch, however, with our's how they handle this connection, this contact, that's critical. What am I talking about? Here's an example: The daughter of a friend of yours, Sally, calls you on the phone and asks if you'd connect her with a friend of yours that her Mom told her you know in a particular line of business. Your first reaction may be to say, "sure." So you pick up the phone and call friend, Jenny, and ask if she'd mind sitting down with your friend's daughter who's just graduated from college and talk to her. You tell Jenny that Sally is interested in her line of work and would love to get more information about her vocation. Jenny says "have Sally call me and I'll meet with her." You pass along all of the contact information to Sally, thinking that Sally will do all of the "right things" and be polite, follow through on suggestions and say "thank you." Not so fast. Not always the case.

Whatever happened to good old fashioned manners? You know, Emily Post kind of manners: Please and thank you. If you say you're going to do something, you actually do it.

In the handful of times that I've personally experienced making those connections, the varying degrees of how Gen Y handles this is like night and day. Some kids are terrific, saying and doing all of the "right things" to all parties: to the connector (me), to the person who's sat down with them, to the various job connections that meeting led to, etc. But others, are the pits. No pleases or thank yous, no follow throughs to anyone, just going through the motions, kind of. This is not good.

To: the kids asking for the connection: It's amazing how a good old fashioned thank you note, either in snail mail version or even email version (I'll take it anyway I can, at this point) goes a long way. Showing up on time. Having done your homework about the company, even a little homework, following through on suggestions...keeping in mind that in a distant way, you are a reflection of the person that has connected you. And oh by the way, that person may be a contact you 'd like again in the future, so don't screw this up.
As the connector: learn from my mistakes. Be clear up front with this Gen Y kid. Tell them that you'd be happy to connect them (assuming that you believe in them) as long as they follow through, "say please and thank you," and remember that this is indeed a favor and should be treated as such.

There's a fun book out by Emily Posts' great great granddaughter, "How Do You Work This Life Thing" which tackles some of this "basic" stuff. I thought this was basic, but I'm learning ... not to everyone!

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