Bill Wilson spent over 20 years in legal departments at corporations large and small, from high tech to brick and mortar, and is writing about various topics while trying to find that next great career opportunity.
This column is going to be directed once again at those readers who are not looking for a job, but who can have a material impact on those who are.
This bout of unemployment is not just the usual cyclical dip. Anyone with a mouse can find out more than they ever wanted to know about who is adversely affected, how badly, and the nearly unprecedented breadth of the hardship. People are losing their homes in a wave of foreclosures that may not yet have peaked according to a recent article in The New York Times. So getting a job requires more effort, more ingenuity, and quite frankly, more help than ever before.
Most of you, if you are reading this newspaper or website, know at least someone who is unemployed. They may be a friend, a former colleague or adversary, or even a family member. I’m going to give you absolution for thinking “there but for the grace of God…” provided you take this pledge: today, I am going to help someone get a job.
All of the advice in this column and elsewhere touts the value of networking. But I am going to reveal a dirty truth here: You can’t network with someone who doesn’t want to be networked with. With all of the people who are out of work, there may be 10 people trying to get a piece of your time to help their search. And so what I am going to encourage all of you to do who get those phone calls asking for a meeting to “find out more about the (fill in cleverly contrived subject phrase here)” – agree to meet, or at least to talk. Not just to your friends of 20 years, but to the guy they send your way, or who cold calls you from the alumni directory of the law school. Yes, I know you’re busy and barely have time to breathe, let alone listen to someone else’s sad story. Nevertheless, do the meeting, and be present in every sense (turn your phone to silent!). Get their resume in advance. Think about it before the meeting. Look over your contact list to see if there is anyone else they should talk to. Listen. All with the uppermost thought: How can you help this person? Who or what do you know that will make a difference in their search. It doesn’t have to be earth-shaking. But it needs to be thoughtful.
There will be the occasional nut-job who wastes your time, or who is eminently hard to like. My advice: so what? How many potential clients fall into the same category? You don’t stop going after them because some of them are repugnant, do you?
When you’re done, three things will happen as a result, all of them good. You will feel better about the job you have, you will feel better about yourself, and the person you met will feel immeasurably better that someone actually cared. You will also build a reservoir of good will that might help you when “that guy” becomes GC of a hot new internet startup and actually remembers your name and what you do for a living. Or when you yourself get that visit from the Grim Partner.