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If help runs dry, it’s time to revisit business ties

Many job seekers may have trouble understanding whether people who’ve helped them in the past can’t now, don’t want to anymore or, despite appearances, may still be willing.

Professor Angelo Kinicki says the problem may be coming from the other end. He holds the Weatherup/Overby Chair in Leadership at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz.

“A lot of people are uncomfortable giving direct feedback,” he observes. “They obfuscate and waste everyone’s time. You can’t move forward (without) the feedback.”

Like Stan Kimer, president of Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer Inc. in Raleigh, N.C., Kinicki says to watch for unanswered emails and telephone calls. Kimer also says to look for “shorter or slower responses and toned-down positive feedback and expression replacing ‘I’m excited to hear from you’ and ‘It’s always wonderful to hear from you.’ ”

“I think the loudest signal is lack of responsiveness,” says Elene Cafasso, president of Enerpace Inc. in Elmhurst, Ill. “Everyone is busy. But after three attempts that don’t get a response even after a week has passed, I’d take that as a signal that your contact is ‘just not into you,’ as they say on the dating front.”

She sees a lack of promised follow-through after a person’s response to an email or call as a sign.

“Sometimes people just don’t know how and when to disconnect,” Kimer says.

If you’re uncertain about the situation, “stay present to what’s really going on in the relationship,” advises Mark Gregor, founder of Madison D Solutions in Los Angeles.

“Lack of communication doesn’t mean that they don’t want the relationship, just that they may want it at a different level than we do,” he says. “Have a genuine conversation with the person.”

Cafasso says people may stop responding when they can’t offer additional help. When you think you’ve noticed a change in the communication pattern, she suggests you speak with the person. Mention that the person is very busy and that you may have selected the wrong time to ask for help. Then, invite the person to contact you if the situation changes. Listen. She adds that people often reply, “I’ve been meaning to get back to you.”

Kinicki says people may tell you more directly, explaining that speaking with another named person may lead to more help. He also says to listen for a reference to going “as far as we can. I really can’t help you with that. You need to see someone who has more knowledge on that particular topic.”

Beware of a bad referral from a less skilled individual trying to tell you something.

Consider, too, a strategy Cafasso advocates that keeps you in control from the outset. Decide which people to contact at what frequency and when to close the relationship. If the contact dies, “reclassify” the person in your system.

“Executives don’t know how frequently to follow up,” she states. “So try X times and X ways.”

She says your state of mind will benefit if you have more than one person helping you.

Finally, Kimer says, some of these relationships fade out.

“It’s perfectly OK to see a relationship has served its purpose and move on,” Kimer says. “Always be gracious in accepting the goodbye. Thank the person. Share the positive aspects and leave the door open.”

When help diminishes, get clarification from the person. If it’s time to move on, ask for a referral. Keep going.

Dr. Mildred L. Culp welcomes your questions at culp@workwise.net. © 2013 Passage Media.

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