Being the first generation of kids to grow up with the Internet, I view connecting with people in a different way than my parents. I remember meeting new people in AOL Instant Messenger, Napster, or Myspace in middle school ( to this day, I’m good friends with some people who I originally met as a stranger on Myspace). I remember my parents being floored that I could play hockey with some kid across the globe over Xbox Live. Even today, I constantly connect with strangers and build relationships over Twitter.
So why do I find it so shocking to build professional relationships through the internet?
Maybe I’ve felt that in today’s tough job market, no one would go out of their way to lend me a helping hand. Maybe I envisioned the world of marketing and public relations as more cut-throat than it really is. Maybe as I’ve gotten older, and have been burned a few times, I’m more suspicious of a stranger’s help.
Whatever the reason, I’m shocked and completely touched by the help and assistance total strangers in the industry have given me as of late.
Recently, I had to make a very difficult decision pertaining to my professional life. A contact who I had originally met through Twitter, Julie, took a good chunk of time out of her day and offered me some advice and guidance. She then put me in touch with Matt, a very successful vice-president at a large and prestigious Public Relations firm. Matt proceeded to spend almost an hour on the phone with me helping me figure out my dilemma. Matt even went so far as to help me with my resume, gave me lots of encouragement, and made an effort to put me in contact with people he knew. To say I was floored was an understatement. Here was a guy who was incredibly busy, had gotten to where he was through his own drive and determination, and yet he was taking so much time out of his work week to help a complete stranger like me out. I almost couldn’t make sense of it.
The world is full of people looking to keep their insider secrets to themselves, or too busy to take time out to help someone else out with their career.
When I expressed this to Matt through e-mail, he humbly wrote back “Always happy help…. I didn’t have any go-to people back in my day, so nowadays I’m trying to spread the good news/advice”.
This reaching out from Matt and Julie, as well as countless contacts through Twitter and my Linkedin groups, reaffirms that I’ve picked the right industry to get into. I’m blessed to be in contact with people like these, and the confidence boost it’s given is immeasurable.
I also realize that I now have a responsibility. In ten or twenty years, when someone is just starting off and needs guidance contacts me ( and hopefully I’m successful enough that they’ll want to), I have a responsibility to take time out of my schedule and give them a helping hand. And I’ll be happy to help, remembering what it felt like to be in their shoes. And hopefully, when their time comes, they’ll feel the same and give advice and guidance to someone else. Who knows how long the chain will continue? Sometimes its hard to ask for it, and sometimes you’ll be shocked when you’re given it, but that’s the power of help.