W is a former college acquaintance whom I haven’t spoken with in 5 years. Q is a friend of W who also attended school with us. He wishes to work in my current city and industry.
W referred Q to me to speak about potential opportunities. From the start, it was unlikely I would be of much help to Q – because I am not aware of opportunities, because my firm itself has few spots (and even if it did, I have limited power) and because Q was not appropriately experienced (and I would have struggled to help even if he was)
We ended up speaking for about an hour. Part of the conversation was enjoyable but once it became clear I wouldn’t be able to help, the conversation lost direction and ultimately it did not conclude satisfyingly. There were opportunities for Q to end the conversation cleanly yet he pressed on in the hopes that I would ultimately help. I made a weak statement to the effect of being on the lookout to disengage from the call.
Focusing on what I could have done differently… I could have made quite clear up front of my inability to help to set expectations. I also could and should have asked him to enumerate what I could do to help, rather than carrying the onus as I was somehow positioned into doing during the conversation. I came across as feeble rather than unhelpful – not sure which is worse.
I also delved too deeply too quickly into technical financial speak. It’s a tendency I have and a bad one – to discuss knowledge and go deep rather than skim broadly. It’s an easy thing to do when one is lacing conversation topic – talk about things you know. I missed chances to find out about Q as a person which he would have appreciated and helped foster positivity even if I wasn’t able to help. Definitely, I missed a chance to find out how Q knew W.
I also could have not taken the call in the first place but debated it and consciously did so. In many cases I wouldn’t.