Anything bothering you at work? (31 Oct)

I recently switched jobs, and an old co-worker keeps reaching out to schedule time to “catch up” with me. We’re not very close and it feels like they’re only reaching out because I’ve landed a job at a prestigious firm and they want an in. I don’t mind chatting with them, but if they outright ask for a referral, how do I politely turn them down?


answered by workplace whisperer Shane Loughnane | Morning Brew

Sure, Halloween can be scary, but is there anything spookier than your email inbox? Deadlines and updates and syncs (oh my). Just when you think you’re safe, an ominous request from an old co-worker reaches out and grabs your leg. Scary stuff.

While it’s always great to pay it forward, you are wise to be judicious with your referral capital, as your own brand, by extension, is on the line. So when your ex-colleague pops the question, be honest and direct. While it may be tempting to decline based on your current lack of tenure, for example, how will that play when they ask again in six months? If you’re simply not familiar with them or comfortable enough with their work to serve as a reference, your best bet is to be upfront about it now.

In the meantime, consider if there’s anything else you’d be willing to do to help them out. Is passing along their resume without necessarily referring them an option? Perhaps you could offer to keep an eye out for other opportunities, or recommend networking events within the industry. If nothing else, providing some insight on what made you more attractive to your new firm may be a gesture they appreciate.

Good luck—and if anyone reading this emerges from tonight with a candy surplus, we should totally plan to “catch up” soon.

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