I know I am, and, usually, I’m perfectly fine with that. But sometimes people use my name without my permission. That’s when things get fuzzy. Let me explain.
Say you’re going for a job interview, and you want to use me as a reference. Great, I’m almost always happy to comply except when you fail to advise me about the situation or at least give me a head’s up in advance. This has happened more than once. As a result, I’d like to advocate that we draft some road rules for name-droppers. Here’s what I’m proposing:
- Before using me as a referral, how about we make sure I, um, know you?
- Let’s also define “know me” as actually having met and/or spoken to one another either in person or on the phone at least once.
That’s it. Short and sweet, right? You see, truthfully, I’m usually flattered to be used as a reference. Plus I’m always happy to serve as a mentor, especially when I feel I can teach, guide, share my experience and wisdom and help someone along in their journey. I’ve benefited from many mentors and still have my go-to people when I’m stuck on a problem or just need a second opinion. I get it. In this industry we’d be nothing without our network of referrals.
What I don’t understand is stretching the truth and using someone as a reference when, in fact, you’ve never had contact. If I write a book review, you’d better believe I’ve read the book and, therefore, am entitled to an opinion. The same goes if I endorse one hotel over another. I’d best be speaking with a level of authority. Reputations are easy to destroy but hard to build back up.
To further clarify, standing in the same room as a celebrity does not give you license to pretend that you’ve met and become friends. In business, when seeking a referral for either personal gain or professional opinion, it’s best to stay away from the “second cousin of your great uncle’s mother’s son-in-law.” Instead, seek out someone you know and can be assured is knowledgeable about the person/subject at hand.
The adage “what goes around comes around” can truly be played out in this high-stakes situation. Your own reputation could be judged, too.
So, never pretend a connection exists. Instead, rely on your network to provide solid introductions and authentic referrals. Then, always remember to pay the kindness forward.