Just to be clear, we think that Kelly Blazek has suffered enough. Our intention in joining this conversation is not to become part of an “intellectual mob,” as Peter Drucker once put it, and no one should be judged solely by her most embarrassing moment.
That said, the lesson here is clear enough: Don’t respond to a young person earnestly seeking your help with a nasty email, especially if you’ve been voted “Communicator of the Year” by a local organization.
To those who have missed the brouhaha, it all began when a young job seeker sent a LinkedIn request to Kelly Blazek, who is known for running a job bank for marketing professionals in Cleveland. Blazek said no, no and NO!
“Your invite to connect is inappropriate, beneficial only to you, and tacky,” Blazek replied. “Wow, I cannot wait to let every 26-year-old jobseeker mine my top-tier marketing connections to help them land a job.” Blazek went on to make a suggestion: “I suggest you join the other Job Bank in town. Oh wait—there isn’t one.”
The job seeker posted Blazek’s invective, which traveled rapidly around the web. It then emerged that this wasn’t Blazek’s only such email. The unhappy Blazek, despite numerous personal apologies, was forced to relinquish her 2013 “Communicator of the Year” prize.
Drucker, it’s safe to say, would not have written such an email. He told a lot of stories about people who had helped and guided him, and he likewise tried to be generous in the same way. In his memoir, Adventures of a Bystander, he recalled with pleasure how nice Depression-era Americans were about helping each other out when jobs were scarce.
“Whoever heard of an opening looked right away for someone who needed a job,” he wrote. “And whoever heard of someone who needed a job, right away looked for a vacancy.”
Throughout his life, Drucker treated correspondents with great courtesy, even when a letter was of dubious caliber. To one university student, who had written him asking, “How are the responsibilities of the knowledge worker best utilized within a multinational corporation?” and a few other queries, a 95-year-old Drucker politely jotted down short answers before concluding, in shaky pen, “Sorry, the questions are much too broad.” That was about as harsh as a brushoff became.
That said, Drucker may well have suggested that Blazek simply needs to gain a better sense of her own strengths and weaknesses. Clearly, her job list has been helpful to people, and she feels a strong sense of purpose, so perhaps the solution is to focus on that and cease most one-on-one communication with job seekers.
“Some people work exceedingly well as coaches and mentors,” Drucker pointed out in Management Challenges for the 21st Century, “and some people are simply incompetent to be mentors.”
Who in your career was particularly helpful to you when you really needed it?