Oh, You’re Too Good To Help A Sistah Out? Maybe You’ve Forgotten The Struggle

December 14, 2012  |  

Madeleine Albright once said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” While I certainly wouldn’t assume that “special place” is reserved for just women, in general I don’t understand people who don’t help other people.

You know the type. They’ve reached a certain place of success in their career and instead of being forthcoming with well-meaning advice and support for others trying to reach that same success, they’re nasty to the people who would dare ask them for a helping hand. If you’re this type, I’d like to present a modified Golden Rule:

Do unto others as others have done unto you (and, please, don’t pretend no one has ever helped you).

In the history of “The Struggle Bus” there have been many passengers. The great thing about life, however, is that you never know what a day may bring. One day, you’re still in the struggle, working hard to get your foot in the door, trying to make ends meet, hoping someone will return your call and then one day, something pans out and “voila!” you’re off the bus. So-called regular Joes hit it big in their own personal lottery of life every day by securing their dream job, getting that byline in a national magazine, finally being promoted or some other career success they’ve worked hard to achieve.

However, what too often goes unmentioned in the oft-repeated story of their success is the fact that while they were still in the struggle, someone helped them along the way. Maybe this person was available for advice, or passed along their name for a job opportunity, or took a chance on them and gave them a position. One of my favorite stories about this is Harrison Ford’. When he was a struggling actor, he became a self-taught carpenter to pay the bills. At 29, he got a supporting role in George Lucas’ American Graffiti. How did he get the part? He was hired to build cabinets in George’s house. Later, at the age of 35, he became a bonafide star after playing Hans Solo in Star Wars, created by that same George Lucas.

There are all sorts of instances when a person was lent a helping hand, but unfortunately, it seems that people who once took someone else’s hand up conveniently forget about that and now refuse to reach a hand down.

Not only do they refuse to reach out a hand, they go on extended rants via social media about the fact that someone had the nerve to approach them for advice. We get it. Twitter is not the best way to contact someone. However, in this day and age, it’s definitely legitimate. And if you’re a power user (aka someone who spends all day tweeting), then why act genuinely surprised that someone would actually notice your presence and thus attempt to contact you that way?  Sure, you can choose not to have certain conversations in 140-characters or less, but to be upset that someone who obviously admires your success tries to talk to you via Twitter when you’re Tweeting all day anyway is just bizarre. The same goes for Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, FourSquare, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, and whatever other social media outlet we’re all using these days.  When someone contacts you via social media, that’s called being resourceful – especially when your email address is inexplicably secret like you’re the President of the United States (as though an email from a young lady wanting advice is worse than the umpteenth email from Shoedazzle asking you to “view your showroom” currently filling your inbox).

Do people come incorrect? Absolutely. But maybe some should remember their own struggles, look past the method and respond to the message. Instead of, in true “I walked three miles to school barefoot in two feet of snow” fashion, saying that when they were coming up, they would have never Facebook messaged someone about something professional. Honestly, “So what?” Things are different now, and social media places opportunities within arm’s length that were once unheard of. Social media has revolutionized everything — including the job search.

Truthfully, I don’t think it’s about the method of contact anyway. Some people genuinely do not have any interest in helping anyone but themselves. Unfortunately, what these people fail to realize is that assisting others in their success can further their own.

Oprah Winfrey is a great example of this truth. Since Oprah left the talk show business, many have said Ellen is her replacement. I disagree. Sure, Ellen is fun and her talk show is informative. But what made Oprah “Oprah” was not just the fact that she could talk to people, but Oprah launched careers. Dr. Phil, Suze Orman, Rachael Ray, Carol’s Daughters, Tyler Perry, countless authors and more received some assistance from Oprah to get to where they are today. While there will be other talk show hosts, for now, no one has helped others’ careers the way Oprah has and Oprah is famous for that and continues to wield considerable influence today.

Also a good argument for not being rude to other people who you apparently view as “less than” you? Fortunes can change in an instant. You never know who will be sitting across the hiring desk from you…or your child. What a shame for those who have forgotten the struggle to be rudely reminded by being unceremoniously thrust back into it.

I’d like to think that the people I’ve witnessed being epic jerks to others who look to them for help were just having a bad day. I’d like to think that’s not truly how they would treat someone who is in the place they were in not too long ago. I may be thinking too highly of some though and maybe there really are women who make a habit of not helping other women. I wouldn’t go as far as Ms. Albright and say they’re going to hell, but I will say I hope I am never that woman.

What do you think?  Have you ever noticed people who “forget the struggle” and thus seem annoyed when others ask for help? Do you think people who have some semblance of success should even try to help others? Do you think it’s okay to reach out via social media to people you’d like to get to know professionally?

 Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life

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