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Career Karma

Elisa Heisman -- When it comes to establishing professional relationships and achieving career success, it's important to recognize people who are the true "go-givers" -- not the "go-takers."

Oh, I'm putting it out there. I'm volunteering my time. I'm writing articles. I'm learning new skills. I'm connecting people. I'm doing everything I should be doing to put great career karma out there in the hopes that someday it will come back to me in spades.

So, what happens when the good karma turns into bad chi?

Over the last year or so, I spent many hours mentoring a colleague through her job challenges. She called me in moments of panic and despair. She shared her stories with me over lunches and on the phone. We discussed everything from negotiating relationships and work-related politics to writing-out her job description and establishing herself as a leader in her organization.

I did this for two reasons.

First, I really like this person. She reminds me so much of a younger version of myself. She is passionate about her work despite its frustrations, and she turned to me for help in navigating through turbulent times in her job. At the end of her journey, she received a better title, a higher salary and the respect of her new boss. It brings me joy to see this happen for her and to know I had a little something to do with it. When I was her age, I would have loved to have a mentor to share her wisdom with me. I was happy to be that person for her.

Second, I'll admit that I did it because someday I knew I might ask her to return the favor. At the time, I wasn't sure what I would want from her. However, as a connected and intelligent leader in the community, I knew she would be well-positioned to help me in my time of need.

Over the summer, I asked her for a letter of recommendation. She gladly agreed to write it. I sent her my resume and we discussed the areas of my background that I wanted her to highlight. Then, I waited for the letter to arrive.

Five months and several reminders later, I am still waiting. And while I have no urgent need for this letter, I can't help but feel disappointed. I thought I was someone she would want to keep in her inner circle of advisers. By agreeing to do this and then not following through makes me question her ability to keep promises to other people. When someone's loyalty and reliability are in question, one's personal brand is tarnished. In this day and age of connectivity and networking, it's essential that one's reputation and brand remain positive.

What have I learned from this experience? Of course, I understand that some professional relationships may turn into "a one way street." I just never expected it to happen with her. So it is time for me to recognize the signs more quickly and accurately, shift course and align with people who are true "go-givers" -- not "go-takers."


Elisa Heisman is a Senior Marketing Communications Professional with more than 20 years of experience in writing, publishing and non-profit management. To contact her, please send an email to or connect with her on LinkedIn at

© 2016 Elisa Heisman

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