awkward job networking situation
January 11, 2019 10:26 AM   Subscribe

I would like to reach out to a local business owner about potential job opportunities but we have some awkward history... how do I best finesse this situation?

Four years ago, I was in Manhattan working for Hip Company having a Big Moment in the Zeitgeist. Henceforth known as HCBMZ. I was in a fairly high profile position and one of my many tasks was to spearhead a project in partnership with a smaller niche business, henceforth known as SNB, who would help provide a customized service to HCBMZ. My point of contact was SNB's founder and owner, Robbie.

Robbie and I shared some email correspondence about this project and met in person once to discuss preliminary steps. Robbie and I share many professional contacts in common outside of our relationships at HCBMZ and SNB. Robbie and I also live in the same small NYC metro town north of the city and have several friends in common. And finally, before going to work at HCBMZ, I used to work in the niche industry that Robbie's company SNB is in, and share a lot of the same work experiences as him.

Two months after Robbie and I first met to discuss this project, said project was scuttled on HCBMZ's end for budgetary reasons, and I had to break that news to Robbie. He was disappointed but understanding. Shortly thereafter, I was fired from that job in retaliation for reporting racist and homophobic language by a manager to HR. (I subsequently sued for illegal termination and won!)

In the aftermath of losing the job at HCBMZ I reached out to Robbie to tell him that I was on the job market and if he was looking to hire more or expand his business to please keep me in mind as I have direct experience with the work that SNB does.

I never heard back from him.

Four years have gone by. Robbie's company has grown and is doing very, very well. I ran into Robbie at a friend's birthday party recently and we reconnected and caught up and he subsequently friended me on Facebook.

A local mutual acquaintance of ours in town who worked for SNB left SNB on January 1 for a higher paying job in her dream industry. The job she was occupying at SNB is easily something I could do. There is no sign of that job being reposted, though, which makes me suspect that it was filled internally, or perhaps they are restructuring the role.

But beyond that, my financial situation is changing. After two years in an amazing operations job at a local arts business I'm faced with the very real prospect of my hours being cut because the business is not doing well. I need to start trying to find either 1) a new FT job or 2) a PT job to fill in the income gap.

Between having reconnected with Robbie socially, knowing about our mutual acquaintance leaving a job at SNB, and my needing to pick up some extra work, it seems like a good time to reach out to Robbie again about maybe working for SNB in some capacity.

But I am a bit hesitant to do so because four years ago I never heard back from him when I reached out looking for job leads after having lost the job at HCBMZ. In the back of my mind I've always wondered if he was annoyed at me for the joint HCBMZ/SNB project getting scuttled, or if he just didn't think I was worth staying in touch with because I no longer held a high profile position at HCBMZ and therefore wasn't useful to him. But I don't know any of this for sure.

How should I approach this? I could send him an email, but I don't even know if he has my email address saved as a contact. Should I send him a Facebook message? Should I ask our mutual acquaintance who just left her position at SNB to put in a word for me? Should I ask one of the many friends and professional contacts I share with Robbie to put in a word for me?

If I do reach out to him via email or Facebook, what do I say? I really don't want to just get blown off the way I did four years ago. I know I'm always here asking for specific scripts and verbiage, but I am truthfully very bad at this kind of thing (in written correspondence, face-to-face I'm really good at it). If you were Robbie, what would you need to hear from me in order to want to take this conversation about employment further?

posted by thereemix to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I believe you are dramatically overthinking this. You never heard back from Robbie because of any of a billion reasons that have nothing to do with you or your prior relationship with him. Treat this possible opportunity as any other situation where you have an acquaintance who can provide a personal reference for you at an employer with a job you're interested in: ask the acquaintance to pass along a professional, customised cover letter and resume with their endorsement. Then don't think about it again.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:33 AM on January 11, 2019 [10 favorites]

I would not reach out to him on facebook. I would connect with him on LinkedIn first of all, and learn a little bit about how his company has become so successful since you last worked with him, and then reach out to him via email to just get lunch and network, like any former colleagues would. He may know people now that he didn't know before, he may have some advice for you, he may have a job for you. But it would probably be a good idea to show some interest in him/his company before asking for any of that.
posted by headnsouth at 10:36 AM on January 11, 2019 [9 favorites]

Asking Robbie (or anyone) to “keep you in mind” doesn’t mean anything; I think the norm is that you’d never hear back, not the exception. If I don’t have a job today that I need you for, I’m not going to keep you in mind. The subsequent silence was likely not a snub and Robbie has almost certainly forgotten that you wanted to be remembered. Never think of that email again, and certainly don’t remind him of it.

If you have (or can get for your friend) his work email, drop him a note along the lines of, “Hey Robbie, I heard from friend that she moved on—are you planning on opening a req for her position? I would love an opportunity to work with you again, etc. [Can I give you a call to discuss?]”

Asking if you can call him is a little cheeky, but fortune favors the bold.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:52 AM on January 11, 2019 [20 favorites]

That does not sound awkward to me. If it were me, sure, I would learn all about him and his company, than I would call him. Explain to him that you are looking and ask if he has anything for you at his Co. or any leads or suggestions.
posted by AugustWest at 10:53 AM on January 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Agree to all the above. Your original request wasn’t that strong and he’s probably forgotten about it. Look at it this way, he was not a hiring manager or a recruiter. Keeping you in mind for career opportunities would have been pretty low down on his list of priorities. This doesn’t mean anything nefarious against your character, it just means he had other stuff to do in his life. But now that you have a concrete opportunity to talk to him about, if he does even remember this previous interaction, it will make it more likely for him to follow through as there is now a real thing for him to look into.
posted by like_neon at 12:25 PM on January 11, 2019

How do you know that your mutual acquaintance left SNB?

If it's public knowledge, you could contact Robbie directly and mention how you read about Mutual Acquaintance's new position, and that you would be honored to fill her former role, and something about how you could take the job and run with it. You could then mention that if this position isn't open, you've been noting the businesses progress over the past year(s), and you're interested in being part of his team.

If it isn't public knowledge yet, reach out to Mutual Acquainenance and ask her if she knows how Robbie is handling the position, and if you could put in a good word for you, and then reach out to Robbie, saying that she mentioned her new position to you, and add some of the items I mentioned above.

Be bold! Don't say no for Robbie. And good luck!
posted by filthy light thief at 12:32 PM on January 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

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