“Be nice to people on your way up because you’ll meet them on your way down.” (Wilson Mizner)
I was shocked to read about the emails sent by a woman who includes in her email signature “2013 International Association of Business Communicators communicator of the year.” Her name is Kelly Blazek, and she runs a 7,300-subscriber JobBank newsletter based in Cleveland, Ohio. She’s supposed to be helpful (and a great communicator) but after her condescending and downright nasty emails to young careerists became public, she’s doing a lot of damage control. What was she thinking?
Especially in the age of Twitter, where her mean-spirited email was posted and drew hundreds of comments. Her response to a 26-year old who had the audacity to try to join her email group and followed up with a LinkedIn request to connect, was titled, “You Humility Lesson for the Year from a ‘Professional.’”
“We have never met. We have never worked together. Apparently, you heard I produce a Job Bank, and decided it would be stunningly helpful for your career prospects if I shared my 960+ LinkedIn connections with you – a total stranger who has nothing to offer me.”
She closes with this charming shot:
“You’re welcome for your humility lesson for the year. Don’t ever reach out to a senior practitioner again and assume that their carefully curated list of connections is available to you just because you want to build your network.”
This from someone whose Yahoo List site bills her as “a senior communications executive who just enjoys helping others in her profession.”
In a response to another young job seeker who asked why he was no longer receiving her emails (and who had posted his feelings on Twitter) she replied (her grammatical errors make this even more cringe-worthy):
“You’re super-brilliant Twitter stunt sealed your fate. And does that work well when you interview for a job and don’t get hired?… I suggest you sign up for the other Job Bank in town. Oh, guess what — there isn’t one… Done with this conversation, and you.”
Although Blazek has issued private and public apologies, it’s much too little, too late; character is defined by what you do when you think no one is watching. The PR backlash is scathing, and rightfully so. Blazek has probably ruined her reputation forever, and it’s hard to feel sorry for someone who shows such contempt for people who are only asking for what she purports to offer.
I, too, could be classified as a “senior practitioner” who offers to help people connect with meaningful employment. I sometimes get requests from people I don’t know and who don’t understand the rules of good networking. And sometimes, I have bad days. But I would never respond as she did to someone who reached out. It’s unconscionable.
Great communicators lead by example. My cardinal rule of networking is that you give whenever you can to create good career karma. I can’t possibly know in advance whether someone “has nothing to offer me.” If that’s the basis for the way Blazek conducts her professional and personal life, she will have a very rocky road ahead. I hope that this media firestorm has been her “Humility Lesson for the Year.”
P.S.: If she’s truly a communications professional, she has seriously underestimated the power of Twitter. Her Titter page has been taken down, but a couple of parody sites have cropped up in its place. One is @KrabbyBlazek, and the tag line reads: “Join the Other Job Bank in town. Oh wait, there isn’t one.” The other is my favorite: @OtherNEOJobBank, with the bio: “Oh wait, there is one. And it’s run by a couple of millennials.”