Periodic musings of a former corporate executive who is between gigs.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Asking vs. Giving

I am FINALLY back to writing this blog! Many apologies for the lapse in postings. The past month has been a crazy mix of doing my tax returns (very ugly this year), managing eldercare issues, entertaining visitors, helping a few East Coast former colleagues negotiate exit packages and a couple of unexciting trips. Hmmm.... silly me for thinking that I was going to be living a life of leisure. The past month has been anything but serene.

Busy times like these remind me that having a group of great friends, colleagues and, yes, even some acquaintances really is quite lovely. We probably don't think about it often enough, but having a network of people in your corner to advocate for you just makes everything better.

I've found that I often hesitate to use my network when I should. In fact, just today I had to ask someone for a favor. And, call me crazy, I spent a good portion of the day putting off making the call to ask. By the time I finally picked up the phone, I'd equated it in my mind to asking someone to go retrieve my coffee mug from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Coincidentally, I've also had two people ask me this week to do something for them. And I didn't blink an eye before saying yes. This got me to thinking--- why is it easier to give a favor than to ask for one?

When someone asks me for something, I rarely think about ignoring it or saying "no", even if I am wildly busy (well, unless it's my husband wanting me to stop and pick up cat food while I'm out--- you do have to draw the line somewhere). On the other hand, I often find it difficult to ask my friends and colleagues to help me. Why, I wonder? It seems that it would be easier to ask than to give since it's the giving side that has to do all the work.

Perhaps it's just human nature. Maybe we like to appear self-sufficient and not trouble others with small requests.

What is interesting is how this hesitancy to reach out impacts a job search. Research shows that most executives find new jobs through leveraging their network of friends and colleagues. Even if you receive a call from a search firm about a position, it's likely that someone you know or a friend-of-a-friend gave them your contact information. I have been keeping some stats on this lately. Of the past 10 calls I've received from search firms, 8 of them said they were reaching out to me because of referrals from someone who knew me. That's a pretty high percentage.

Similarly, I've polled three former colleagues who have landed new corporate roles in the past month. While this is obviously a very small sample size, all three told me that they owe their new position to a friend or a friend-of-a-friend.

It's easy to see where this is headed. So, I'd like to suggest the following new motto for job seekers--- "Giving is good. Asking is better."

Yes, I know it sounds terribly selfish. But if you don't make asking a priority, you'll be so busy helping every one else that you won't focus on your own search. So pick up the phone or fire up the email and ask away!

Hmmm...just had an idea that maybe I can write some sort of job search rap using this new motto. I'll have to work on that. Anyone want to help me?