Posted by Zoe Osborne, Consultant at Macmillan Davies
With the ever increasing use of social media such as Linkedin and Facebook, the ability to create formal and informal alumni networks is much easier than ever before. Past, present and future employees are highly visible if you know how to find them. Changing HR practices’ including tighter recruitment budgets also means that referrals through these networks are becoming more and more valuable.
It now almost difficult to not stay in touch with the people you’ve worked with in the past – mentor, manager or colleague. So what happens when your mentor from a previous role contacts you about a great role….a great role in whose eye’s?
Here is a scenario – a HR Business Partner (Ashleigh*) had worked with a HR Director (Alex*) for many years, had been a wonderful mentor when she was completing the CIPD qualification and had learnt a lot from working with her. Ashleigh’s current role recently lost a lot of the challenges so when Alex got in contact it all seemed like perfect timing. One formal interview (more like a catching up session) and a meet and greet with the team and she was on board. Fast forward 6 weeks and Ashleigh realised that the role wasn’t so perfect after all…. In the three years that had passed since Alex and Ashleigh worked together, Ashleigh’s experience had progressed substantially and she was very ambitious. She was in an awkward situation where she knew it was the wrong role but she didn’t want to let her mentor down. However if she stayed she would not be able to continue her career progression, almost taking a step backwards. If she did leave, it would be a blemish on the CV. Ashleigh left 3 months into the role and her relationship with Alex deteriorated. Sadly, the person who had previously helped her career had unintentionally impeded her progression.


Another example is where the culture that had changed. The candidate had loved working with an ex-colleague in a previous role and when he was contacted via Facebook to work in the same team it seemed like a perfect opportunity. Again, a few days into starting he realised that in the few years they hadn’t worked together, things had changed. Previously they had both been living in London and were single. Priorities and lifestyle had somewhat changed and his friend now has a young family and moved outside London. The old ‘work hard play hard’ mentality of their former years had disappeared. Instead of beers and clubbing after work he was much more interested in Pepper Pig and an early night!
Obviously there are times when these scenario’s work out well. You manage to get the perfect job and with your previous mentor as your new ‘sponsor’ in the organisation, career progression is made that little bit easier. So what would they have done right at the outset? Our top tips are to:

1.     Ensure you treat the interview process the same as you would in any other role;

2.     Also make sure that you interview them as much as they are interviewing you;

3.     Clearly express your short and long term career objectives;

4.     Give examples of how your experience has changed since you last worked together;

5.     Compare the opportunity to other roles available in the market.

*Fictional names
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