[02.18.11]
20 great comments!

The Perils Of A Great Conversation

    executive recruiters, job interview, great conversation, job search, perils, conversations, value, peril, conversation, interaction, separates, opportunities I’ve had some great conversations in my life. Wow!

Conversations that had the potential to add significant value. Or so I thought. They were full of energy and zest.  Lots of smiling.

Someone wanted me.  Saw value in me.  At a time when that sounded especially inviting. And I thought:

“Hey, this might go somewhere!”

I remember a few of them during my job search in 2007:

  • A CEO who seemed to think I was the only solution to his problem. What a great feeling.
  • An executive recruiter who apparently had plans to shop me all around the area.  I was perfect for a few of her clients.
  • A new networking friend who promised the world.  He knew (seemingly) everyone and was willing to help me get connected with many target companies.

And then nothing happened.  That week.  That month.

Is there anything inherently wrong with these conversations?

No, of course not.  They add intrigue to life.  And can be uplifting.

Assuming you don’t place unreasonable expectations on their outcome. And you don’t fall into the trap of being too optimistic.  Leaving you complacent and thinking that everything’s going to be OK.

Great conversations happen in business too.  I’ve had a number of them since I made the big decision to leave my job.  Opportunities for consulting that I “was perfect for”. Speaking engagements where my ideas would really add value.

These types of conversations are reported as small victories on my LinkedIn group.  And it feels good to share them.  As it should. Because we can learn how others are finding positive flow and attention.

But it can be disheartening when they never progress beyond the conversation.

Why do great conversations happen if there is no future value?

I’ve thought a lot about this.  Here are my thoughts:

  1. Everyone wants to do the right thing. They want to help.  And may intend to.  But they find it hard to follow-up. Especially if point #2 is true.
  2. Sometimes we see the conversations differently than others. You perceived “great” and they perceived “interesting”.  You saw serious potential and they have already moved on.
  3. People over-sell their ability to help. It sounds good to say you know a lot of people.  To let others know of your connections, level of influence and knowledge. And then realize that you just promised a bunch of help you can’t or may not be comfortable delivering.
  4. No one likes to be the bearer of bad news. This happens in job interviews all the time.  The candidate asks: “So, how do I look – do you see any issues in my being able to do this job?”  And the answer is: “No, you look good – really appreciate you coming in today!”  When often what they really mean is: “You are a nice person, but not a good fit for the job.”

So.  What DO you do with “great conversations”?

  • Allow yourself the small victory.  Let it be a confidence builder.  And be open to a positive result.
  • Don’t let great conversations finish without a solid next step.  A commitment.  This will set expectations on both sides.  What will happen and when.
  • Follow up as you agreed.  Or send one brief reminder to the person who said they would. But let that be it. Don’t hammer away at a rock that will never break.
  • Move on to creating more opportunities for yourself.  If you are looking for work, new consulting gigs or new sales targets, remember the power of multiple options.
  • Learn to separate real opportunities from interesting interactions. Ask great questions to confirm details.  And find ways to end a conversation early if necessary.

What are your thoughts on this?  How much time and attention are we wasting as a nation on “great conversations” that aren’t going anywhere?

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Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Positive Attitude
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  • Steven Pofcher

    Tim –
    What an interesting blog. I have had my share of conversations with those who promise me the world (or at least a portion of it) and then never hear from them again. When I try to contact them by phone or email, they won’t contact me back.
    I have learned from these experiences to hope for the best and expect the worst – while trying not to be too pessimistic. I do not treat others this way and alway follow up on my conversations and all expectations I have given others.
    It took me a while to learn this lesson – that others may not alway mean what they say, for various reasons.

  • Yeah, it is a funny thing. And I think for most the raw intentions are good. But not everyone thinks through what they say and commit to during one of these conversations. My post was a way to vent but also to wonder out loud why these conversations are so common. The solution, I think, is less talking and more doing. Fewer promises.

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  • Florin Tiru

    Conversations are a good start for any career endeavor. The question is do we follow up on what we promise during that initial conversation, both giver and taker.
    For example, upon meeting with 100+ recruiters 3 years ago, I ended up posting a list of 20 recruiters on my LinkedIn, comprising those who did follow up with me and went beyond the resume keyword search.

  • Solutiongrad

    I think for most the raw intentions are good. But not everyone thinks through what they say and commit to during one of these conversations. Conversations that had the potential to add significant value. Or so I thought. They were full of energy and zest. Lots of smiling. Follow up as you agreed. Or send one brief reminder to the person who said they would. But let that be it. Don’t hammer away at a rock that will never break. The solution, I think, is less talking and more doing. Fewer promises.
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  • Sounds like a great way to give back to those who helped you Florin. Appreciate your view on this!

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  • This is something that I come across a lot as a recruiter. Over the years what I have learned to do is to manage people expectations by being brutally honest. Tim, I agree with your comment that people don’t like to give bad news. But not being honest has consequences. The job seeker may walk away happy at the moment but will have a very negative view when nothing transpires in a week or a month.

    Recruiters: Be honest, don’t over promise and everybody walks away happy.
    Job seekers: Don’t place too much emphasis on a good conversation and know that you are your greatest advocate.

    David Inzlicht
    http://proforce.ca

  • Thanks David – Honesty is the right way – not always immediately appreciated but it keeps people from heading down an unlikely path. Like your advice to recruiters and job seekers!

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