Like Vs. Respect

Let me know if any of this sounds familiar:  You’ve been in contact with someone you’ve known for a long time, someone you know well who works in your chosen profession.  You feel there is a genuine rapport, and honestly believe you like each other and trust each other.  You also believe the other person is interested in seeing you succeed, and has at various times earlier in your relationship indicated that they would love to work with you.  But now that you’re in the midst of a serious job search, the other person is still friendly, but not showing you the professional interest or help you had thought might be coming your way.  Indeed the other person may in fact really like you, but do they respect you and your work?
In your mind, you now question this relationship.  If the person does like you, why aren’t they willing to really help you?  Maybe the employed person isn’t in a position to provide any tangible assistance in getting you hired beyond offering encouragement?  Ok, no problem!  But when they indicated that they would like to work with you, was this person merely being polite; not thinking that you would ever ask them for a job?
Does knowing the answer to these questions make you feel better about the relationship?  No!  You feel slighted that you aren’t being taken seriously, or question the value and quality of your work and your efforts to get into your chosen field. You also question whether the other person thinks you are actually good enough.  Do they respect your work or not?  If this person is truly your friend, they of course want to see you succeed.  But unfortunately ovations of employment and working together from friends are too often less than truly genuine, and sometimes not really a good idea.
With so many industries being highly competitive, any opportunity you have for getting your foot in the door to fill a job vacancy is a good thing.  And because many of our networks are frequently built on the foundation of long standing professional relationships and friendships, it stands to reason that when looking for work, you will reach out to those who know you longest and best.
In situations like these, where we want to nurture the connection between ourselves and the people we know, we must differentiate between friendships and professional relationships.  Yes, we believe that our friends will go the extra mile for us, but friends are sometimes less than forthcoming about their doubts about your work, and if they aren’t in the same industry may not fully understand what you do.  On the other hand, a professional acquaintance might be more objective with their opinions about your skills and (hopefully) more up front with you about your professional abilities, and honest about their willingness to help you out.
This is one of the core reasons employers ask for professional references rather than personal or familial ones.  And all the more reason for you to nurture as many professional references as possible. Employers expect your friends and family to say positive things about you if contacted.  But to a hiring manager, department head or human resources rep, comments about your skills provided by former employers, supervisors or even coworkers have far more impact.
It’s very important to nurture your networks, more so the people you see in the flesh over those who are part of your online social networks, especially the professional ones.  One-on-one relationships with other professionals can build a stronger understanding of what you can provide to a prospective employer, than the connections we build online. Also, that in-person contact allows you to better demonstrate your inter-personal skills, social graces and other factors that make others truly want to be around you.
Friends, even though they care about you, may not fully understand the scope of the work you’ve done, know the breadth of your skills or your abilities the way another professional might, which further clouds the issue.  So, if someone makes an ovation about working together, before you put too much stock into their suggestion, ask for clarification.  How do they see you working together?  Under what circumstances do they think you’d fit in?
For better or worse, sometimes others see things in us that we don’t/can’t/won’t see in ourselves.  And some people just weren’t meant to work together!  Job search makes life tough enough without the addition of false promises.  If you are being encouraged to work with someone you know, ask lots of relevant questions to judge if they are being sincere, rather than being polite because they like you.  No matter what kind of work you do, your day will be so much better when you like and respect those around you!
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