“There are no unimportant people”

Malcolm Forbes, longtime publisher of Forbes magazine, made that statement many years ago and he could have been speaking directly to my client Paul. Here’s why!

Because Paul knew his search would take time, he decided to ”do something for others” by volunteering at a local shelter, helping men who lacked access to company-sponsored job search advice and assistance. During a training session in which Paul was explaining how difficult it can be to make a good connection, he revealed that he had been trying every senior-level person he knew to get an introduction to a certain very prominent and respected business executive. At the end of the session, one of the participants, an unemployed carpenter, came up and said, “I can introduce you.” Paul told me, “I thanked the guy nicely and thought ‘no way!’ But then the fellow went on to say that he’s in a band; ten years ago they were playing at a wedding and this guy came up and asked to play the drums during one of the sets. Well, ever since, this guy shows up on a regular basis at the band’s weekly practices.” Yup, you guessed it. He was referring to Mr. Prominent, Impossible-to-Get-an-Introduction-to Executive. Paul told me:  ”I learned a big lesson that day. I thought I was the one ‘giving’ help, but in reality . . .”

Giving others our full attention, listening without drowning out what they say with the noise of our own preconceptions about them, is simply good manners! When we make assumptions about others—who they know, what they can “do for us”—we are limiting ourselves as well as the other person. It can be surprising what we learn when we extend an open mind and an open hand.

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