Career Advice

Fix Your “Taker” Career Brand

Several weeks back I received an email from a fellow I had worked with years ago. He was asking for some of my time to help him on a problem. I deleted his email. The last six times I had replied I ended up losing an hour of my life solving a problem for this guy, only to be ignored when I needed a favor in return.

This guy was a “taker”, and all takers are toxic. They destroy the reciprocity and trust that is required for any good network to thrive. They are at the heart of the “Get-to-Get” relationships that I described in the post “How Valuable is Your Online Network?” . In that post, I warned against being a person who developed taker relationships, which are “marked by smiling faces testing the limits of just how much value can be extracted from others without offering anything meaningful in return.”

This isn’t an academic exercise. “Taker” is an actual brand that will be affixed to you in the informal networks that hiring managers and recruiters use to figure out whether you are the right person for a job.

Last week I heard the actual term “taker” once and some other version of that term another two times. In each case it was in a candidate review session with a hiring manager. Each candidate had a great resume, solid credentials and fantastic education and experience. And each time it couldn’t have mattered less. A lifetime of taking the right jobs, pursuing the right career paths, making the right connections all destroyed by the brand the candidate had developed in the marketplace. All three candidates written off as people who didn’t know how to create and maintain healthy network relationships.

I guarantee you that if you have the reputation as being someone who takes without giving, who expects value before providing something first or who burns people in professional relationships that you are being cut from consideration for jobs that you want. Your resume will never be enough to overcome your reputation.

As much as I hate to make this sound like a 12-step program, you are going to have to go back and right some wrongs. Take some time this week to think of professional relationships that you have taken for granted (or worse). Reach out to those people and offer them something you think they will appreciate. It doesn’t have to be a lot. You can forward an article that you think the person may be interested in, showing both that you know what matters to them and that you are looking out for them. Or connect them to someone else who you think would be of good contact.

Whatever you do, start being a “giver”. It is a great way to ensure that you jump to mind when people are thinking of potential candidates for a job. And it is an even better way to ensure that you aren’t being knocked out of consideration.