A few years ago, I met with a senior executive to who I was introduced by a close mentor. I was considering what my next career move might be, and he was gracious enough to meet with me. We chatted for 30 minutes, immediately connecting on a wide variety of topics while sipping our coffee.
Without my asking, without my hinting or prompting, he offered to make 3 introductions. These were introductions of Executives he personally knew at three of the largest tech firms. One of these individuals had recently been appointed to their new role and was looking to build their team.
I was thrilled and thanked him profusely. I left his office feeling like I had just found the golden ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I emailed my mentor, thanking them for this initial introduction, and excited for the other three introductions to come.
I followed up with a thank-you note the next day. I followed up a few weeks later. I followed up again several weeks later. I then followed up with my mentor who said the senior executive was very busy, and that he would definitely get back to me.
He never did. He never responded to my emails. He never followed up. He never made the introductions he had promised. We never had coffee, spoke, or emailed again.
I found myself having been ghosted. Yet again. Except this time, unlike a myriad of other ghosting situations, this senior executive had offered on his own to make the introductions.
And I found myself having been ghosted. Yet again. Except this time, unlike a myriad of other ghosting situations, this senior executive had offered on his own to make the introductions. He was quite enthusiastic about his offer, reassuring me that it would be “the easiest introductions” for him to make. When I asked if I could send my bio or resume to make facilitating the introduction easier, he said it wasn’t necessary.
Years later, as I reflect on this experience, I still ponder the following question:
Why do we offer to make introductions we will actually never make?
Because we want to seem helpful in the moment, in particular, if a person is looking for a new opportunity, needs coaching or career advice, or doesn’t have a strong network of their own.
Because it makes us look good and feel good to appear to know people (even if we don’t actually really know the person we are pretending we know.)
Because we felt pressured into doing it. Either by the person who wants the introduction made or by other individuals (like in my case, my mentor.)
Because we feel guilty. Because if we think we say we will make this introduction, the person asking for the introduction will leave us alone. Because we just say yes, and agree to everything.
Or because we actually thought we could or would make the introduction and then never actually do.
Now that I am in a place where I have an extensive network, I think about why, when, and how I will offer and make introductions. Before committing to making any introduction, here are four basic rules I follow.
You must have time to make the introduction. If you can’t do it, don’t offer or commit to this. If I offer to make an introduction, I try to do it within 72 hours, otherwise, I know I am falling into ghosting territory. I make the introduction over email, and use LinkedIn profiles as a way of introducing both parties to each other. (After this introduction is made, please move me to bcc.)
You must know the person that you offer to make the introduction to. For example, I don’t know Brene Brown, Michelle Obama, or Abby Wambach. I can feel important, look important, and pretend I do, but those aren’t introductions I could facilitate. This person has to be someone who remembers my name and someone with who I have been in touch.
You must ask yourself: is this a mutually beneficial introduction? Will both parties gain something from this introduction and getting to know each other? Will either party ghost the other after you make the introduction?
Time is the most valuable commodity we have. Treat other people’s time with kindness and care. Don’t give away other people’s time for free.
As my husband always reminds me, time is the most valuable commodity we have. Treat other people’s time with kindness and care. Don’t give away other people’s time for free.
This is one of my biggest pet peeves: when people introduce you to someone without ever asking you if you are ok with the introduction. You don’t have permission to give away other people’s time. (The only person who has permission to do that is my mother.)
When people introduce me to someone without asking me ahead of time, I then feel obligated to respond so I don’t look like I am “the ghoster.” It starts to build resentment for the person who gave away my time. Always send a quick note and ask if people are open for introductions. Respect their decision to decline, and please don’t pressure them into saying yes when they have already said no.
So let’s all be careful about our offers to make introductions. I often remind my kids of one of the many life lessons my dad taught me: Don’t make promises you can’t keep.