In the last few days I've had several prime job opportunities fall into my lap. Sadly, the list of who I have to recommend is growing ever shorter.
Because I have had so many different jobs and internships over the course of my life and many of them have required reporting and networking -- and because I never lose a number, I have a Rolodex of about four or five thousand people. That's not counting all the people I've met on social media and developed relationships with over time -- even if I am direct-messaging them rather than emailing.
So it used to be that whenever there was a job opening, and peers reached out to me looking for qualified applicants, I would try to recommend as many people as possible. Good karma, right?
Not when some people consistently prove themselves undeserving of it. Because if I do continue to help people who are disrespectful to me, I am essentially disrespecting myself. And despite the overwhelmingly sick desire I have to subconsciously barter for love by constantly helping people out, no matter how poorly they have treated me -- I'm finally recognizing that doing so is only violating my own boundaries.
Because, as me and any other dimestore psychologist can tell you, you teach other people how to treat you.
So why would I give yet another chance to help someone out in their career who continues to screw me over via their actions?
Take for example, the time I saw a boyfriend receiving oral sex from one of the women I had recently recommended for my old job to my former boss (who very much cared about my opinion and took it into consideration when she hired this woman).
Let me tell you, the lesson really took root firmly that time.
Because sometimes you help people out in their career and they repay you with a lovely thank you note or ask how they can return the favor.
Other times they end up with your boyfriend's penis in their mouth.
Not an appropriate thank you. (Sorry to get all Emily Post on you.)
But even when the violation isn't so extreme, it's getting harder and harder to find people who I feel confident recommending. Here are a few reasons why.
#1 You make errors, and you don't even care that you do.
It's one thing to be challenged at copyediting (look back at any article I've written here, and there are definitely one or two where I've made multiple errors which our readers have been quick to point out, which does not reflect well on me -- at all), but it's another to constantly and actively not recognize this is an area you need to improve upon. You have to take ownership of your mistakes and actually work to improve them.
When I was younger, this was me. I once told an editor at The Des Moines Register: "Well, that's what copyeditors are for, right?" after she pointed out to me some error I kept consistently making in my copy. She looked at me with a measure of horror I will not forget.
What I was telling her was, "I don't care to learn, and I somehow think that as an entitled lazy 21-year-old, even though you are going out of your way to point this out to me, instead of apologizing and saying thank you for pointing out the error of my ways, my reaction is going to be to stick to my guns and say: 'Yeah, well, that's someone else's job.'"
What I was saying was, "Not only am I disregarding your advice, I am actively disrespecting it as well, and what's more I think that my time as a 21-year-old who hardly knows anything about the work world is far more valuable than yours. Charming, right?"
It wasn't until I was applying for a job that then involved significant copyediting that I really studied up for the position and memorized several of the rules and consistencies I had been failing at thus far in my writing career. If it's also a challenge for you, this book is good, but taking a class might be ideal.
Note: I don't write you off if you make mistakes. See me at 21. Or 19, as I am rocking it out in that picture above. But if you also then have a terrible attitude when they are pointed out to you -- time and time again -- I get it.
You don't care. So why should I?
#2 You have a terrible snotty attitude and are not gracious or respectful. Think of your core attitude to someone like what occurs at a comedic roast. What happens at the end of one? There is always an underlying core of respect there. Do you have that? If you don't, buh-bye.
I love to often very brutally joke around with friends who are very funny at taking the piss out of me, and a lot of times they are younger, but there's a huge difference between two people trading hilarious insults and jabs -- as is so common in today's social currency -- and a fundamental level of disrespect existing below the surface. If you are wanting someone to help you out in your career and you do not actually respect all of the hard work someone has done to get to the point they are at (and remember: you show respect through actions and words), then see you later.
Come back when you've taken a hot second (or a hot year or two) to think about what actually went into that person's career -- the hours and years and decades -- for someone to get from where you are to where they are. In every interaction you have with them, remember that.
They are tired, son.
That Facebook status update you are destroyed about because it only got one like and someone wrote a nasty comment? The senior person in your career just had to fire three of their best friends because of the economy. Get over yourself. Your world is as big -- or as small -- as you want to make it. Major in the minor and that's exactly where it will get you. The minor leagues.
Having this attitude will also provide you with extreme empathy, and maybe even lead to anticipation on your part. Anticipation is like rocket fuel in your career. Learn. To. Anticipate. Always be putting yourself in the shoe's of your mentors and superiors and colleagues who you look up to and who you later want to help you out.
#3 You have sex with the man I'm seeing after I help get you a job.
OK, it only happened to me once. But definitely don't do that.
#4 You leave a bad impression with someone via your behavior.
In the last few days I have forced myself to be better with boundaries and NOT recommend people who have treated me with varying degrees of disrespect. One young man who I've helped in so many ways (I mean, a place to stay, money, so many interview hookups) unfollowed me on Twitter.
Do I care if you unfollow me on Twitter? Not really. But I'm someone who you are wanting to HELP you, and you don't have the foresight to even KNOW to suck up to me by doing that, I can only imagine the errors you will make when trying to get on the good side of a potential boss.
It's a chump move, dude. At least pretend as if you are trying to kiss my ass if you want me to do you some favors. Because right now in my life with my time more limited than it has ever been, me taking any time at all to help a young person is time I don't have. So at the very least amuse me with the most token attempt ever at trying to get on my good side.
Because make no mistake, friends, KNOWING to suck up is a critical job skill. No one wants to admit it, but this is what is whispered in back rooms, I promise you. It is the crudest shorthand of people skills or emotional intelligence there is.
People don't like to admit it but there is a little Don Corleone inside of almost all of us. It's human nature. We secretly want to have the ring kissed -- especially if we've worked hard to get wherever we are.
Remember: Your superiors are old and tired and jaded. Make the extra effort. Do what you can to help them. Demonstrate value. Again and again and again. If I could rename every job article I write here, it would just be, "More on demonstrating value. Yep, keep demonstrating that value!" Being a cynical cool dick is not demonstrating value. I've got plenty of that in myself already and in my life in general. What makes you actually special?
#5 You just straight up have a terrible attitude that reeks of entitlement.
I went to a roast of comedian Joe DeRosa last night, and one of the comics had a terrific line. It was a comedy roast so the line was brutal (and obviously wildly exaggerated) -- but the evisceration of entitlement was spot on -- which was, "Hey, check out this comedian. Yeah, if you want a middle act who has the CONFIDENCE of a headliner and the TALENT of an emcee, this guy is PERFECT."
This joke is brilliant. It so perfectly sums up the challenges with so many young people naive to the ways of the job world (and I'm including myself when I was younger). You haven't earned your bitterness or your bad attitude or your cockiness or your laurels. It takes people years to accumulate them usually so show some deference, constantly.
Please note: I'm not even talking about me here. Do I have laurels? Well, I know several people who can and do change lives very quickly when I make the rare introduction so sure, in that sense. And yes, I have a few credits -- but nothing along the lines of what many people I know who are far more talented and accomplished.
So I recognize that. And then you know what I do?
I try to demonstrate more value.
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.