Think you'll skip that networking thank-you? Think again
If you, like me, are in the midst of a job search, I'm betting you've had at least one encounter with someone who left you shaking your head. I've had several, including a man who, during our networking coffee, thumbed through his Blackberry as we spoke, constantly losing his train of thought.
One woman admitted she hadn't taken the time to review my background before we met, and kept calling me "Laura," even after my gently correcting her -- twice. Or how about the man who, seconds after we sat down, asked whether I liked him? (Not posed in a blatantly inappropriate manner, mind you, but seemingly to try to throw me off balance. I told him I had no reason not to.)
As an unemployed journalist, I left these and other encounters amazed that the people I had met continued to hold positions of authority, given their complete and utter lack of people skills on display. I was insulted that someone would agree to make time to meet me -- almost always on a trusted friend's or colleague's suggestion -- and treat me with such disrespect.
Walking in off the street as myself, and not as a reporter with whom someone might feel obligated to interact, has continued to show me that, indeed, some people's authentic selves can be pretty ugly.
I write those thank-yous anyway.
The way I see it, each of the many people I met shared his or her most precious resource: time. Considering that's something that cannot be replaced, acknowledgement and thanks are required, regardless of the outcome.
Yes, on those rare occasions when we feel as if we've been abused, belittled or disrespected, finding the words can be excruciating, and the pen might hover over the page for, it seems, an eternity. But the words will come.
We human beings are complicated creatures, and none of us is at the center of anyone's world aside from our own. It's quite possible, for example, that the Blackberry-obsessed gentleman had a pressing deadline to meet, and it unexpectedly began closing in during the hour we shared.
Perhaps the woman who failed to learn about me before arriving is -- like many people nowadays -- doing the work of at least two people, and simply lacked any spare moments to review my resume. The man who asked, "Do you like me?" may have personal issues too vast to acknowledge in this space. (That's what I'm telling myself, anyway.)
What matters is that each of these people showed up. None of them had to. And even the most awful encounter can teach us something, even if it's a simple affirmation that we don't want to treat others the way we were treated.
What to write? Try: "Thank you for making the time today to talk with me. I appreciated our hour together, and I learned a great deal from you. I would like to keep in touch, and I would be glad to help you in any way that I can. Until we connect again, be well."
The high road is the only path worth walking.
Laurie Huff is a former newspaper reporter and has been looking for full-time communications work for more than a year.