After popping out of a client coaching session at 3:32 this afternoon, I dialed in to check my voicemail box.  My machine told me I had one new message.  And then, with one quick accidental press of the “9” button, I inadvertently deleted it — without ever hearing who it was from or what they wanted!

For the rest of my life, unless the culprit in question just happens to follow my blog, I’ll always wonder who tried to reach me this afternoon.  Was it a wrong number?  Was it a client needing help negotiating a big job offer before the weekend?  Was it a job hunter seeking help with a resume?  Was it a corporate HR manager seeking to hire me for an outplacement project?  Or was it Ed McMahon’s ghost, calling to tell me that I won the lottery, but had to call back within 30 minutes to claim my $50 million prize?

My point is, communication breakdowns happen all the time.  E-mails get lost or trapped in spam folders.  Verbal messages don’t get passed along.  Mail gets incorrectly delivered.  Boneheads like me press the wrong button and delete voicemail.  So if any of us really want to reach somebody, and make something happen, we have to keep this fact in mind — and at times persevere, using multiple communication channels, until we successfully get through to the party in question.

This applies to networking favors, as well.  As I discussed in a blog article from a few years back, entitled Five Tips for Dealing With Flaky People, it’s an unavoidable reality that at least a few people in your network will offer help or introductions during the course of your job hunt, but then fail to follow through in a timely manner.  You have two choices in these scenarios.  You can get mad, curse the person’s name, and walk away holding a grudge — or you can give them the benefit of the doubt and say “You know, maybe they just got busy or forgot that they had made this commitment?” and then gently reach out to remind them.  More often than not, I suspect you’ll find the latter explanation turns out to be the correct one, and that a small nudge or reminder will get you exactly what you wanted.

So while I realize emotions run high during a job search, and it can really sting when folks seemingly blow you off or don’t follow through on their commitments, remember, there are a great many “alternative explanations” that can account for some of these communication breakdowns.  So make sure you do your part and follow up, after a reasonable time, if you don’t hear back from the party in question.  Make this a habit, and you’ll find that very few of the things that you want to have happen will end up falling through the cracks!

P.S.  And if you’re the mystery caller who left a message for me this afternoon, please call me back!