If Only Relationships Were For Sale (sigh)

Alas, if only you could “buy your way” out of a job search.

While it hasn’t happened in a while, I recently had two calls come in from people who were interested in getting some help with finding employment.  Specifically, they told me they wanted introductions to important people and executive decision-makers.  Not career coaching, mind you, or any advice on how to build and maintain a healthy network themselves, but basically “access to my Rolodex” in exchange of some kind of nominal fee.

One of these folks, a senior-level executive with a local technology company (hint: rhymes with “psycho loft”) got particularly frustrated when he asked me to do this on behalf of his wife, who hasn’t worked in many years, and I told him the above arrangement simply wasn’t possible.  While I told him I’d be happy to advise her on how best to go about ramping up her job search and building her own network, and might even be able to make some relevant introductions once I got to know her a little bit, I couldn’t promise “introductions for cash” on a sight-unseen basis.  And told him that to the best of my knowledge, nobody out there was offering such a service — at least a legitimate one.  Simply put, this wasn’t what he wanted to hear and the call ended, shall we say, rather…abruptly.

So I just raise this issue for anybody out there who still hasn’t embraced the fact that one’s career (and all the various sub-steps involved like networking, interviewing, etc.) is NOT something that can be effectively outsourced to somebody else.  Resume-writing, perhaps, but not the rest of it.  While there plenty of folks around like myself who can lend a certain amount of assistance with your efforts, on either a formal or informal basis, the responsibility for piloting this ship ultimately rests on you, the professional in transition.  I may be one hell of a good first mate, but YOU are the Captain of your destiny.

Had I wished to spend more time debating the issue with the recent folks who called me, about the idea that there might be “relationships for sale” out there, I would have loved to ask them questions like:

•  If I were to introduce to somebody who could give you a $100,000 job, let’s say, how much of a cut would you give me?  Ten percent?  Twenty percent?  Half of your annual salary, similar to the arrangement involved in an attorney contingency fee?
•  Why do you think somebody I know would agree to meet you, if all I could really say to them is “Hey Joe — I’ve got this person who isn’t very bright and/or skilled, and doesn’t seem to be able to network on his/her own merits, but they wrote me a big fat check, so would you mind hiring them?”
•  How long do you think my valued relationships (or your own) would last in this scenario, if you kept bombarding these people with a never-ending string of fairly random networking requests?
•  How many out-of-work people could I send along to YOU for a meeting each week, were the roles reversed, before you blocked my number from your phone and blacklisted my e-mail address?
•  Would you expect the guarantee of a job or would you be willing to pay me big bucks just for the introductions themselves?  (if so, I could just rent some office space and hire some actors…cha ching!)

You get my drift.  In the real world, at least to the best of my knowledge, relationships of this kind simply aren’t for sale — and there really aren’t “sports agents” out there for average professionals like you and me, as much as we might wish otherwise.  There are staffing agencies and headhunters who might APPEAR to play this role, sure, but as I’ve written about extensively on this blog (see here) this is an illusion — and recruiters/headhunters spend their days finding people for companies, not the other way around.

Anybody beg to differ?  Do any of you know of an individual or organization out there who promises to “represent” job seekers in a proactive way, for money, with the prime deliverable being access to key decision-makers and hidden contacts?  If so, please let me know.  I’m sure it’s been attempted by somebody, somewhere, although when I try to honestly think through how such an arrangement might work, it strikes me that you’d need to have two things in place to make it viable: a) An INTENSIVE screening process to make sure only highly qualified, incredibly marketable individuals make the cut; and b) a HUGE payoff for the introducing party, since it would likely take hours and hours to make this happen and to “represent” somebody on a full-time basis — and the reward would have to be in the multiple thousands of dollars.  Otherwise, it just wouldn’t be worth spending one’s “social capital” in this fashion while simultaneously risking some major relationship bridge-burning.

I know that 99.9% of you out there already understand this, so thanks for allowing me to “vent” a little!  Just wanted to call a little attention to the issue, given the sudden uptick in folks I’ve run across who seem to have a misplaced notion of how relationships really work…


4 Responses to “If Only Relationships Were For Sale (sigh)”

  1. Matt,

    That’s strange. This is probably the same guy that called me also. Recently a number of even clients (when I’ve just met them) have asked to be introduced and offered that I probably could have a great business just referring folks.

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one experiencing this, thanks for this great blog post. 🙂

  2. The timing of this blog is fantastic.
    I was recently approached by two former colleagues who wanted an introduction to one of my contacts. They were recently laid off and they were frantically searching for someone to talk to in their target company. They desperately wanted access to my full contact list so that they could help themselves to any opportunities or my contacts. In fact, they were rather indignant that I would not open my contacts to them! I may have to “unLink” from these people.

  3. Ron: That’s an astute observation, and in terms of the one person I dealt with most recently, that factor could potentially have been in play — since it sounded like the person definitely hailed from overseas. In many other cases, though, I’m afraid that explanation doesn’t account for it, since I’ve had plenty of other folks imply that they wanted to “buy introductions” who were born right here in the U.S.A. Again, though, great insight…

  4. Hey Matt,
    While reading this blog on Relationships for sale, one opinion occurs to me. Perhaps this person of whom you speak was from another country or culture. I don’t want to seem ethnically biased or discriminitory in any way. However, in my admittedly limited travel experience, I have noted a disticte shift is “what is right” and “can I buy it”. Bribes and kickbacks are common in many business cultures around the world. Perhaps this might explain this person’s expectation that dollars can buy relationships. Just a thought.

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