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A lawyer I barely know asked me to recommend him for a legal position at my company – and I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable about it. What’s the proper etiquette for this type of situation?
It is not appropriate for a lawyer (or any professional) to contact someone s/he barely knows in an organization and ask for an endorsement for a job. If the requesting professional hasn’t worked with his/her “contact” and/or has not built extensive relationship equity with this person, there is no solid or credible foundation to receive such an endorsement. This type of request also places the person receiving the request in a very awkward position. It’s a situation you never want to create for someone you value in your network. Ever.
Strong professional networks are invaluable and essential in today’s uber connected world. In this competitive landscape, people are using every means possible to get a foot in the door and gain a competitive advantage. The stakes are high – so contacting “people you know” in an organization when applying for a new position is common. In fact, this type of networking is at a fever pitch. And more candidates are exercising poorer judgment in these situations.
So what is the proper etiquette?
While doing everything you can to gain a competitive advantage is enticing, poor judgment can compromise your reputation and relationships with those in your network. So my recommendation is to be thoughtful and use common sense before tapping a contact for help.
Some dos and don’ts:
1. If no relationship, but contact of a contact in your network:
2. If you have a weak relationship with individuals in your network:
3. If you have a moderately associated relationship:
If your contact says yes to any of the appropriate requests, be gracious, appreciative and say thank you. More importantly, do something now or in the near future to reciprocate the favor in some way (remember, it’s not all about “Me”).
If you find yourself on the receiving end of an inappropriate request from a person you don’t feel comfortable assisting, it is acceptable to decline. But, in order to avoid exacerbating an uncomfortable situation I recommend that you provide a gracious response.
Example: “Jane, thank you for reaching out. I would be happy to alert HR that you have applied for the position. However, since we haven’t worked closely together I won’t be able to add any value in that area for you or my employer. Best of luck – I hope there is a positive result for you!”
It’s a cutthroat professional world out there and aggressive jockeying for the best position has become the norm. Great networks can facilitate the effort, but if used crassly they can do more harm than good. But by adhering to principles of common sense and etiquette, you will not only build your reputation and strengthen those networks; you will do Emily Post proud.
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Lass Evans, VP, Deputy General Counsel, Fortune 500 Company
Good article Julie. Situations like these are becoming more frequent and it isn't always easy to know how to deal with them tactfully. Responding honestly, but tactfully rather than blowing someone off is a much better way to go.