Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pay Attention or Pay the Piper

Some people don't take the time to pay attention, and it can really cost them. Don't be one of those people, especially when it comes to social media and networking.

I feel genuinely fortunate to have had a long and varied career. Even more fortunate that I've now lived a long enough life to make it seem possible that I've done all the things that I have. And that I've gotten over worrying whether I seem 'scattered', but that's beside the point.

The point is, that with so much past life experience and a genuine desire to help people out, I regularly contribute to conversations about a wide variety of topics when I feel like I have something worthwhile to offer. In an era of social media as business development platform, this has yielded some interesting if, in my opinion, rather moronic, results.

Although it's been nearly 20 years since I last worked in television, where I used to be a reporter and a weather anchor, I figure my experience in the TV industry and my expertise as a career management coach is occasionally useful to people. When a recent college graduate wanted some ideas from other LinkedIn professionals for how to land her first TV gig, I joined in with some thoughts of my own.

Sadly, someone else in the group apparently uses it primarily to harvest contact information with little to no thought about whether the individuals attached to that information are in any way her target market. The fact that we're part of the group is apparently qualification enough.

Because of that, soon after my contribution to the job search discussion, I received an email that claimed not to be a pitch (then later allowed that it might indeed be that) and then went on to pitch me on some product or technology for which I have zero use or interest personally. Because I no longer work in television, and haven't for nearly 20 years.

What's really too bad about this, though, is that if she'd paid any attention at all, it needn't have been a waste of her time or mine. Although truthfully, my 90-second investment did lead to this post and it probably took all of 10 seconds for her to launch her automated pre-written email, so maybe that's why she doesn't care. Again, however, I digress.

The point is that had she taken a bit more time and approached me as an individual and customized her message to target me, not some generic me from 20 years ago who still would have felt slimed, I could perhaps have helped her out. Because I genuinely like helping people out and because I still have a number of contacts in the industry. And I probably could have given her some advice about how to better pitch her whateveritis (I immediate sent the message to the bit bucket, so I don't even know anymore what it was). Some of the advice might even have been useful.

But because of not paying attention and the fact that one of the things for which I have very little tolerance is acting stupider than you are, I don't really feel like helping her out anymore. Should she happen to discover this post and realize it's about her, the advice here should be at least as worthwhile as anything else I could have done. And look, the rest of you get it for free! You don't have to have made the mistake to learn from it!

Paying attention to where people are, what they really want, and looking to see whether and how you fit is important. Paying attention to your own mistakes (and others) and learning from them is important. If you don't pay attention, you'll pay the price.

If you're lucky, the Piper's fee will only be 30 lashes with a wet noodle. Sometimes, though, it's worse. Sometimes it's not just a pitch that didn't land; sometimes it's a whole host of missed opportunities - or more disastrously, several potential clients or markets entirely closed to you if you happen to annoy the wrong person. Just hope they don't mention you by name if they're going to go public with their annoyance!

If you've been slimed via social media, do share. If you want help figuring out how not to slime people but still get your point across, I might be able to help. Frankly, though, Havi (with her duck, Selma) and Pistachio can probably help you out even more. I highly recommend them.

What new things have you noticed lately?