Like many of you, I often receive emails from individuals suggesting that my business and those areas that I am responsible for would be significantly improved if I would invest the time to connect with them; or at a very minimum direct them to those who they should be speaking to. This however, was not one of those emails.
The sender said that he was looking to apply for a job with an international firm of which I had done business. Through his Internet searches, he found my name associated with this company on a number of occasions and decided to reach out directly. The request was simple, “I noticed that you have had extensive dealings with the organization that I am seeking employment with and I wonder if you could spare an hour of your time to help me prepare for an interview that I expect to have with them?”
The writer’s tone was sincere and respectful and there was something about his note that I could not simply brush off or ignore. After all, there had been some thoughtful time spent in scouting me out and by this I was impressed.
I agreed to meet him for a coffee near my office and truly had no idea what to expect. A young well-dressed professional arrived at the appointed hour. He was polite, engaging and very interesting to talk to. He shared his story of leaving his native country to come to Canada where he felt his wife and two young sons would have a chance for a better quality of life. Unfortunately as can happen with many talented immigrants, his skills had not been recognized and he was in the process of rebuilding his network and credibility to once again attain the type of position he once held in his native country. He did not seem daunted by this task which he had been pursing since his arrival 4 years earlier. In contrast he seemed to consider it simply “the price of admission” in the country where he hoped to make his new home. We enjoyed a wonderful dialogue and I was impressed by his grasp of business in general but more so by his humility and desire to personally grow while making a contribution in Canada.
I helped him with as much information as I could with respect to the company whose employment he was seeking. The conversation ended at the time agreed, I wished him luck and we parted company.
Within a couple days I received a wonderful heartfelt handwritten thank you note expressing his appreciation for my taking time out of my busy day to meet with him…a nice touch reminiscent of a different place in time, before email became the norm.
As it turns out he didn’t get the job and wrote me a couple weeks later to tell me the disappointing news and again thanked me for my support. At this point I asked him to send me his résumé, just in case I heard of anything in his chosen field, which he most appreciatively did. I sat on that resume for about 2 months when a colleague of mine approached me in the hall one day and mentioned that he had exhausted his search internally and wondered whether within my network I might know of someone with the unique skill set he was looking for. Serendipitously it turned out to match this young man’s skills to a tee! I passed along his resume to my colleague with the caveat that I really didn’t know this individual all that well but that I had felt from my initial meeting that he was worth taking a look at.
Imagine my surprise a few weeks later when my colleague sent me a quick email thanking me for passing along the resume and informing me that my new coffee partner had turned out to be the lead candidate and that he was about to make him an offer!
This young man is now a colleague in my organization. He is doing very well, in a job more fitting of his skills and talent and loving the opportunity he has been given, and I am proud to have played a minor role in his story.
So why am I sharing this…..
It would have been very easy for me to push delete on the email that day or to simply ignore it as yet another distraction ….so why didn’t I?
Recently, Oprah Winfrey was here in Vancouver. My wife and her long-time girlfriend bought the tickets months in advance and with girlish enthusiasm attended this epic event. On the ride home my wife and her friend enthusiastically shared their evening’s experience. Although there were many nuggets from the conversations with Oprah the one thing that really resonated for me was Oprah’s simple message of listening to your “inner voice”.
On the day I received that email several months earlier for an unexplainable reason there was a tiny voice inside me saying, “this deserves your attention”… I chose to listen and respond. The chain of events this choice set in motion were far reaching, not only for the young man and his family but for our organization who acquired a skilled individual. The impact of this decision is also felt by everyone he tells his story to and who through this sharing is encouraged to take a chance and reach out beyond their comfort zone. Finally, for me personally this was a lasting reinforcement to learn to trust that inner voice and watch the positive events that unfolded as a result of that small gesture.
Not all the actions we take by listening to our inner voice will end as serendipitously as this one did. Often we may never even know the impact of our actions and yet they may and manifest themselves multiple times over in conversations and thought. As I reflect on this experience, I can’t help thinking about how a pebble when tossed makes contact with the water’s surface creating a ripple, that ripple expands well beyond the point of impact and continues long after the initial action touching parts well beyond our line of sight…The first step in this event is to pick up the pebble.
So the next time that inner voice tries to speak within you, listen carefully and act accordingly…. it’s so worth it!