For at least 20 years—and much more frequently since I founded the Professional Speechwriters Association in 2014—I have been fielding your emails and LinkedIn messages—requests to pick my brain on potential candidates for the jobs you are being paid to fill.
I get about one of these requests per week, and never by the same recruiter twice. How many of you are there?
You won’t tell me the name of the hiring organization, usually. It’s always an “exciting role” for a Fortune 100 company in such and such an industry. You would very much appreciate a few minutes of my time, and any thoughts I have!
You won’t let me list the position in my regular newsletter to the speechwriting community—which would be a service to that community—because you have not been hired to advertise the job, but rather to find proper candidates through your own guile and connections.
So your idea of guile is turning to me, for my connections—without ever once (in 20 years) offering to compensate me a plug nickel for any help I might provide in your desperate search for a speechwriting needle in the corporate communications haystack.
I resent this more and more every year I live, and I always want to tell you what my dear, sweet wife tells people who try to take advantage of her: “You can just fuck right on off.” But for exactly one reason, I don’t: I always hope that maybe the job you have will be a perfect fit for one of the unemployed or unhappy speechwriters I’m always trying to steer into something better. But as we’ve also discussed here, often when you do interview my recommendations, you mistreat them.
And here’s why I despise you so much: You don’t have the first clue or the least care why I would allow my brain to be picked or my precious time be taken by your corporate mercenary self. You make your own living literally through transactional relationships, and yet you’re coming to me offering absolutely nothing—not a percentage of your kill, not sponsorship of the PSA World Conference, not an ongoing mutually beneficial relationship of any kind—and you’re expecting my help from the goodness of my heart.
Of all people, a professional people-swapper should understand my anger—no, my awe—at your gall.
There’s another way to do this, you know. A mutually beneficially way. A community-building way. A now-elderly recruiter named Jean Cardwell did it way back in the day. As I wrote a few years ago after she and I had lunch: “She prided herself, and still does, on her willingness to speak to any speechwriter who called. She would offer advice, counsel the speechwriter on a résumé … ‘I hope that even when I was at my very busiest that I was never too busy to take time to speak to people,’ she says.”
Another recruiter I know—Angee Linsey, of Linsey Careers—is that way today. And she’s valuable to me, because when a PSA member calls me in a career crisis, I can send them to her and know she’ll take their call and put them in her database—and at the very least, give them a little counsel and a sense of encouragement. Angee recently moved to Portugal; she’s still in business, and even six time zones over, she’s still more accessible in every way to me and my speechwriting flock than you.
Next time you want to pick my brain, tell me what’s in it for me. Otherwise, fill your own goddamn exciting role.