I really enjoy helping people — to connect with one another, get jobs, get better jobs, meet a sweetie. I tend to do this automatically and have for many years.
But I recently turned someone down who came to me for help.
I’m done having my generous goodwill taken for granted.
If someone has turned you down for help or mentoring or advice, (and you don’t understand why) maybe it’s one of these:
The person who referred me to you hasn’t treated me well.
Just because you know someone who knows me doesn’t mean I automatically want to help you (i.e. helping them out.) The quality and longevity of my relationship with the person who referred you to me is what counts — because you’re a total stranger to me. Your referring friend knows, (even if you don’t), this is as much of a favor to them.
Why, if at all, do I owe them (and you) my help?
You asked to “pick my brain.”
It’s taken me more than three decades of unrelenting hard work, surviving three recessions — (while some of you were still in diapers!) — to accumulate these skills, experience and contacts. Asking someone this question is rude and disrespectful. I charge up to $200/hour for my skills. You get what you pay for.
Here’s a recent Forbes blog post on the same issue. It surely hit a nerve, with 3,000 Facebook shares.
You didn’t even acknowledge that asking for my unpaid time is a favor.
Because it is. Your unpaid use of my time costs me income.
You asked me for information that is quickly and easily accessible elsewhere.
I don’t help people I perceive as lazy, no matter how charming they are.
You offered nothing in exchange or access to potential clients.
I was approached about a decade ago, (not at all unusual), by a writer in another city I didn’t know who needed advice about writing and selling his first book. In that first email, he also offered to put me in touch with some of his valued editorial contacts that might lead to paid work for me down the line. We’ve since become good friends. He got it.
In contrast, a few years ago, another total stranger — another young man, but this time with no ties in common — asked for my help getting started as a photographer. I made introductions to a few very powerful and connected professional contacts, the sort he could only dream of.
Now that he’s thriving, (and good for him!), a thank-you note or flowers would be nice. I had no expectation of that, but anyone who chooses to share some of their skills or contacts is giving you a gift. Don’t just grab and run!
You didn’t follow though.
The person whose behavior prompted this post took the time to write me a long email asking for help. I took the time to write back and told her my fees.
I never heard from this person again.
Do you really want help? If you want something badly enough to ask for it in the first place, why waste my time by walking away after I respond (not necessarily exactly as you had hoped)?
If you mentor, do you care what happens after you help someone out?
Has someone you helped come back to thank you or return your generosity?