In my “career boot camp,” I advocate to my students that the best way to build relationships is to be a resource to each other. One way to do so is to make proper introductions between two people who could benefit from knowing each other.

A participant, I’ll call her “Jill,” introduced one of her classmates to a good contact of hers who held the role of Chief Administrative Officer. Jill made sure to emphasize the importance of this introduction to her classmate; I’ll call her “Janet.”

Janet reached out to the CAO indicating her interest in meeting her. The CAO kindly responded to Janet saying she was currently working on an important project that would last four days. After that time she would reach out to Janet to set up a meeting.

Janet replied by saying she understood but then contacted the CAO daily for the meeting request. After the third attempt, the CAO reached out to Jill and said, “Who is this person you referred me to? I’m no longer interested in meeting her. I’m shocked you would refer a person like this to me.”

Jill was upset. She immediately reached out to her classmate Janet to find out what happened. Janet didn’t have a good excuse for her poor behavior. Jill went on to explain that not only was the CAO not interested in meeting her, Janet had lost a great opportunity for connecting to a senior level executive who could further Janet’s career. Additionally, Jill’s reputation with the CAO had taken a toll and this contact was important to her.

After a month of damage control, Jill introduced a second contact to the CAO; I’ll call her “Natalie.” She explained the previous circumstances to Natalie and cautioned her about the approach she might take with the CAO. This time Jill did her homework and made sure she introduced someone she had 100 percent confidence in.

Natalie followed Jill’s advice and successfully met with the CAO. The meeting went so well she actually got a job offer. She started working last week. The CAO called Jill and thanked her for the great introduction.

How could two similar introductions result in so vastly different outcomes? It comes down to understanding personal boundaries and great listening skills. Janet didn’t heed the CAO’s boundaries and got blacklisted. Natalie, on the other hand, took Jill’s advice seriously and managed to get a great job offer.

What has been your experience with introductions? Share your comments below.

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