On the Job

Use Your Connections Wisely

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By Kenneth Bredemeier
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, May 2, 2008; 4:48 PM

When applying for a job, personal connections can be advantageous, such as getting your foot in the door for an interview. But sometimes, they can present the job seeker with a dilemma, such as the case here for this applicant:

I'm applying for a position leading a small family foundation. A search firm is handling the recruiting. I know one of the foundation's three trustees because he sits on the executive committee of the board of my current non-profit employer, where I act as primary liaison with the board.

"Is it a) ethical and b) strategically smart to tell him that I'm applying for the position at his family foundation? I don't want to make him feel awkward about it."

Ronald McKinley, vice president for human resources at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital, said this applicant should have no concerns about divulging his job search.

"I think it would be OK to let him know that," McKinley said, "kind of a head's up," so the family foundation executive is not surprised when he eventually sees who one of the applicants is for the job.

"There's nothing wrong with that and it's a good use of your network," McKinley said.

Moreover, he noted that it is "probably smart," especially if the applicant is well thought of in his current role as a liaison with the board of his current non-profit employer.

The lesson that all applicants can take from this particular job search is that a huge percentage of applicants use whatever connections they have, be they personal or professional, to land their next, hopefully better job.

So the question job seekers ought to ask themselves is: Why wouldn't you make a connection with someone you already know? The answer is obvious.

Kenneth Bredemeier has six years of experience writing about the workplace. On the Job, a column addressing real worker questions about office relationships, corporate policies and workplace law, is written exclusively for washingtonpost.com. To submit a question, e-mail onthejob@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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