It’s a Small World
The other day I got an email from a former co-worker asking for me to provide a work reference to a
recruiter. I of course was delighted to; feeling the way I do about references. Although it was not the most
accurate portrayal of the situation, I could have been considered his supervisor for at least a portion of his
duties. Besides neither of us still worked for the company. Our former boss did not work for that
company. In fact, no one who still worked there would have had any clue who either of us were. It was not
that it was so long ago. It was just that the turn over was so fast that it was like having the lifespan of a fly
which was actually good seeing how working there was like buzzing around a pile of crap all day. In any
case, I liked the guy and so I made every effort to get back in touch with the recruiter once she had left a
message with me.
When we did make contact, it was a very pleasant conversation. I had nothing but good things to say
about my friend and she was happy to hear nothing but good things about him. You see, she was a
staffing recruiter. Her income was based on getting other people to work. She had identified him as
someone who could fill the job that she had available which meant she could make more money. After
talking with him she was simply following the rules to check his references. She was covering her backside
just in case it turned out he was incompetent or insane. She most likely would not have cared if he was as
long as it did not come back to hurt her or cost her money.
In just a few sentences, I confirmed that he was both normal and capable. At that point she didn’t really
care to go deeper into his back ground or abilities. She had perceived that I had some understanding of
the company we had worked for and she had been dealing with several former employees from there as
well as trying to place new people there. So she asked me how it was there; what was the turn over, which
she already knew; why was the turnover so high; tell me about the management; do you know this person
or that. At that final question, I stopped and smiled… you see she was now asking me about other people
to verify if what she had heard or suspected was true and the best way to confirm that type of information
was to get it in a round about way from an unconnected source.
In other words if you really want the truth don’t start out by asking someone involved in a situation straight
out. Go to people who where related to the situation but not involved. Find as many people as possible
who were informed but not involved. The ones who don’t have an interest in presenting the situation a
certain way. Then you will have the truth. So now, having almost forgotten about the guy she called
about, we had a long detailed conversation about the company, the management and oddly enough my
It seemed that he had been let go and she had been working with him to find a new position. She shared
where he was working and that he was doing OK. She also shared that it appeared he had a history of
being fired and wondered why that might be. This was the real meat of our conversation and was what she
likely had been wanting but until we had connected she had no where to gather the information. It’s why
she was likely successful in her job as a recruiter and why towards the end of our conversation her offer to
help me find something, if I was ever looking was more genuine and sincere. It sounded more like an offer
of payback then marketing future business. It was like thanks for helping me out if you ever need
anything, I’ll take care of you. (I left in a way that I would never have put that boss down as a reference. I
didn’t trust him. He had proven to be mean and self serving.) That’s how I ended up being a reference for
my former boss.
So what is the point?
It is a small world after all… and I mean a very small world. This story is, as are the rest of them in this
book, real and a close paraphrase of the conversation. From the time I worked for that company to the
time of my conversation with the recruiter was under a year. I was not only with another company but I was
in another state. You understand that my reference for my friend was simple networking. We had kept in
touch and helped each other out. It was expected. That is not what makes the world small. What makes
the world small is the conversation about my former boss. A simple unexpected connection and a
conversation. I said good things about my former boss and tried to explain away some of the recruiters
apparent concerns even if I agreed with them. However, if I were someone else, I could have used that
moment to extract revenge upon him for any grief’s I still held. A few well placed negative comments during
that informal, unexpected conversation and his job search with that recruiter and her company would have
been done and he would have never known why.
The Lesson to Learn:
Be careful with your interactions with people, mindful of their lingering effects, and conscious of potential
connections. Unless you live in a cave near the center of the earth, it is impossible to avoid potential links
in your life and in truth you don’t want to. The process of building interconnected and supporting networks
to pull from is a valuable effort. However, networking is not always positive or planned. It only takes a
single bad contact to permanently ruin months of positive effort.
The Brutal Truth:
You don’t live in a bubble and you can’t run away from your past. So when you least expect it, expect it.