I believe in lifelong learning, getting new skills and enhancing existing ones. I believe in expanding your horizons, exploring new options and meeting interesting people on your journey. I believe in maintaining a healthy network of contacts and renewing the relationships on a regular basis, not just if I ‘need’ something ad hoc.
But unfortunately, as a business school educator, what I am getting right now is lifelong teaching. What do I mean by that? Students who come back to you for project help, advice, recommendations, assistance, etc. after several / many years after they have left the institution. If this was a student who stayed in touch, who was in my field, who was working in industry with mutual interests, who I knew well and respected their abilities, I would not think twice about this. That is normal.
Instead, I get the ones that have been out of contact for many years, do not know what I am doing now (as I have left the institution they knew me at, but found me via LinkedIn or the Web) and have no problem for asking for free use of my time. Not just for a quick question, but for something more elaborate. I have received four of these queries in the last two weeks. And I am not alone — my colleagues tell me they now get a few every month. One of them told me his policy is one short e-mail of less than 10 minutes time expenditure at most. And then no reply to any other query.
When a client finishes a service contract, the client does not expect to come back for additional services for free. So did we not finish with these students in their own mind?
Did we teach them badly in the first place about expectations and networking, or about social behavior and good manners? One gave my name to someone to provide a great deal of information on him without asking me if I would be willing to do so. Or even if I knew this information to begin with. I have not seen him in more than seven years. And although I recognized the name, I do not remember this student.
I have to say I do not understand these young people who think I will always rush to their aid with free services. Rush, as there is always a deadline attached, believe it or not.
But these might be future leaders, I hear you say. What if I make a relationship investment in them again now — will it later pay off when they get established? They have been out of school for several years, with additional work experience and a graduate degree since I saw them last. Yet they only see me as still their teacher who gives them what they need, not a source of a networked relationship. They tell me about themselves in their request, yet are not curious about why I am no longer at their old institution and what has happened in my career. I am a service provider, not a person to which they have a working relationship. But that service finished many years ago.
I believe in lifelong learning. Now I do not believe in lifelong teaching.