It’s a Small World

I often hear people say "It's a small world". It is and tools like LinkedIn are rapidly making it smaller.  I've had three small world encounters in the last few weeks and there is a lesson to learn from each.

Story #1:

In 2006, I worked for a year in Chicago. I developed and have maintained strong connections of those colleagues.  Three weeks ago, I saw on LinkedIn that one of those people had a new job and sent a congratulatory email. He lives in San Francisco so we don't see each other often. He replied that he likely will be in Toronto in the near future to work with a prospective client, if he lands the deal. To make a longer story short, it turns out that his prospective client is another former employee of mine, whom I have mentored for a number of years and for whom I acted as a reference for his current job.

Story #2:

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog: Do First Impressions Matter. I told the story of someone who want to connect to me, set up a meeting and then blew me off by sending this email: "Peter, I just returned from a weekend in NYC and I'm beat. Think I'm going to take it easy tomorrow. Can we meet on Wednesday instead?" I declined to change the meeting time and we never met. Last week, I met an executive who is considering hiring this person and asked if I knew him. I had to admit I only had one reference point and told the executive about my encounter with his candidate.

Story #3:

An executive recruiter that I have known many years is retiring from the search business. She valued our relationship so she introduced me to another boutique search firm in which she has a high degree of confidence. Instead of reaching out to me personally, the new search firm loaded me into their SPAM engine and started sending me requests to help with searches. The requests were unfocussed, not targeted and inappropriate. Their emails also all began with "Dear Peter J." which showed that they had auto loaded my first name and middle initial into their salutation field.  The second search request happened to be for a company at which a good friend is the senior executive for their worldwide sales organization. I forwarded the email along to him, asking if this is really the employer brand that he wants to portray.

The lessons from the above speak to both the positive and negative power of networks. In the first case, the positive connection of a middle person to two parties can help get a deal done. I provided a positive endorsement for my friend in San Francisco to his prospective client. The situation was serendipitous but didn't have to be. If my friend in San Francisco had compared his and his client's networks, he would have found me in the middle. It is common for me to receive emails from people in my network asking how well I know someone that I am "linked-to" because they wanted an introduction or endorsement. If you aren't using the power of Linked In to do this, you should start.

The second story demonstrates a negative lesson. Your behavior is never anonymous. Fate has a strange way of connecting dots that you may not want connected. I don't know whether this person will get this job or not but if he doesn't, he will likely also never even know why.  Be careful about what bridges you burn in your career. You may think they may be inconsequential but you will never know.

The third story speaks to the danger of bad technology implementations in the social media world. Not only did these recruiters blow the opportunity presented by getting a warm referral introduction, they created the impression that they were Spammers. I will never pass them recruiting leads because based on first impressions, I would not trust them to professionally handle any referrals. I am not sure how my friend, who is their client, will react but I can guess it won't be positively towards them.

Linked In, Facebook, Twitter and other networks are making the world smaller and more interconnected. This can offer tremendous opportunities for advancing your business and your career but can also be a minefield for the unwary.

© 2011 Meaford Group

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