It’s great when you are asked on Twitter to comment on a ‘story’ or article. Even better when it is fellow We Are The City blogger, uber Babe Carolyn from Maiden Voyage. Carolyn sent me this article, which even hit CNN. The article highlights communication etiquette, as well as the power of viral messages on the internet.
A summary of the story is this: a 26 year old approached a more senior female via Linkedin, asking to connect with her and presumably to ask to mentor her. There is no copy of this message, which is a shame. They didn’t know each other before. However, the more senior woman decided to respond by sending this message “Your invitation to connect is inappropriate, beneficial only to you, and tacky. Wow, I cannot wait to let every 26-year-old jobseeker mine my top-tier marketing connections to help them land a job. … You’re welcome for your humility lesson for the year.” The younger woman, Mekota, responded by sharing it on social media; which went viral. The older woman, Blazek, who was a highly respected senior marketeer was ridiculed and had to apologise. Are you still with me?
Neither woman comes out of this well. I expect Blazek receives plenty of emails from graduates asking for assistance, mentoring, jobs etc. It must be annoying if you have worked so hard yourself, to be inundated by these requests. But you can just ignore them or delete them. Or pass them on to your assistant to send a polite ‘no’ response. When you are on Linkedin, part of the deal is that people want to connect with you. You can adjust settings so that people CAN’T connect with you. And when people request a connection that you don’t know, you can just delete it. Many people have a policy of only connecting with people they’ve met or spoken to on the phone. Other people will accept every request to connect.
We don’t know the nature of the message Mekota sent Blazek, but her response to receiving Blazek’s message was also unforgivable. This was a private conversation between the two women and possibly it is to Blazek’s credit that she didn’t show the original message from Mekota (although it’s likely she deleted it). To send a private message to all of your friends, spreading it on social media etc is unprofessional. Whilst she was understandably stunned at the response, she too should have deleted or filed it away. Perhaps she should have considered the response: did she actually know Blazek? Was she too forward to a very senior person?? Did she demand an awful lot?? We don’t know. But we do know that her act of sending the message virally did two things: it destroyed the reputation of a senior figure in marketing, but also it made her unemployable – since she showed she wasn’t trustworthy. What would she do within an organisation if she didn’t get her own way? Tweet about it?
But again this story highlights the blurred lines we are dealing with, when using social media. Someone else on the internet isn’t someone you know, so if you approach them, be aware you are a stranger to them. Would you demand a job from them? Would you have high expectations of “What you can get” from emailing them?
On the other hand, it is too tempting for some people to repeat what you write to them. We always say, get things in writing, but be careful what you write because this can be repeated. The same applies to messages on the internet: they’ll be sent everywhere by certain people, so beware.
Graduates are encouraged to network in order to connect with people that know about job opportunities. But in a face to face situation, it is unlikely anyone would have the cheek to ask openly for a job, contacts, mentoring without having a standard conversation first – or a referral. Just because someone is on a site like Linkedin, doesn’t mean it is appropriate to approach them in this way – however, if you are on Linkedin, be prepared for people trying to connect with you for your contacts – and as a precaution switch on the privacy option so your contacts can’t see anyone else!