We’re all busy.  We’re all stressed.  We’re all worried about the economy, our jobs, and our futures.  And we all feel badly that we there isn’t more we can do, directly, to help the many anxious job seekers out there get plugged back into a suitable opportunity.  And while those of us in the career coaching profession can arguably give people a better fighting chance of landing certain leads they come across, we have no special mojo (at least I don’t!) that can compel employers to add more jobs to their payroll, as opposed to hunkering down with a “wait and see” mentality.

While there may not be much direct help of the here’s-a-perfect-job-lead-for-you variety that the average person can offer to their unemployed colleagues at the moment, however, this doesn’t mean we’re helpless to lend a hand.  If nothing else, every single one of us can make a commitment to offer those professionals in transition an extra-hearty helping of respect, compassion, and responsiveness.  There are a lot of scared people out there right now, after all, trying hard to keep their chins up, and nothing kicks their legs out from under them more then when they count on a friend to do them a favor and that friend doesn’t come through for them.  Or when a hiring manager promises to return a phone call and then doesn’t.  Or when a recruiter makes a bunch of hopeful promises and then disappears.  Or when an employer runs a job advertisement that isn’t “real” or that has already been promised to somebody within their inner circle.

Sadly, however, I’m hearing more and more reports of this kind of behavior these days, not less.  There seems to be a surge of “flakiness” going around where people are dropping the ball on promises made, referrals offered, or other basic tenets of common courtesy.  I’m even seeing the levels of responsiveness on LinkedIn drop dramatically as the standard 70-80% response rate on introduction requests (2nd Degree ones, at least) seems to have sunk down to a significantly lower percentage in recent months.

So while I certainly don’t mean to sit here on my high horse and indict anyone personally, I’d merely like to send out a general reminder to any of us who may be guilty of letting our manners and compassion slide a little bit during these turbulent times.  Along these lines, here are a few relevant thoughts that might help us all pay some extra attention to this issue in the foreseeable future:

•  It doesn’t take long to be polite: While sure, it may take a few extra minutes to return some phone calls or to respond via e-mail to any folks in transition who might be contacting you, it’s still the right thing to do — and enormously valuable to the self-confidence and psyche of those people between jobs.  Nothing is worse than summoning up the courage to ask for help and then getting met with abject silence.  Also, aside from a few exceptions, remember that most of the people trying to network with you are likely mature, realistic adults.  They’ll understand that there may not be a lot of concrete things you can do right at the moment to help them, but will greatly appreciate your time and responsiveness, nonetheless.

•  Remember the Golden Rule: Have you ever been frustrated when somebody you know hasn’t responded to you in a timely manner or has turned a cold shoulder in your direction?  If so, you know what it feels like, and should have no problem empathizing with the many job hunters right now who are equally frustrated and becoming highly sensitive to the “rejection” issue.  So make an extra effort to treat those around you with respect at all times.  That way, even if this recession doesn’t peter out any time soon, we’ll all at least be able to look ourselves in the mirror and know we carried ourselves with dignity during these difficult times!

•  What comes around, goes around: Okay, this last one might depend on your worldview a bit, but for eons people have been observing that people tend to “reap what they sow” in terms of their behavior to others.  So if you’re a believer in karma, make sure you don’t tick off the powers that be by acting in a less than professional manner toward the people around you who might be in need.  And if you’re on the more secular side of the house, remember that the people you blow off now might end up being your coworkers…or your boss…or your customer one day.  And will have long memories in terms of who gave them a helping hand during their job search — and who gave them the persona non grata treatment!

Sorry for sounding so preachy, but again, it’s disappointing for me to be hearing so many stories lately of people dropping the ball in the networking process or not communicating with job applicants in a civilized manner.  So let’s all do whatever little things we can to help stem this tide.  By no means, too, does this ignore (or exonerate) the bad behavior that many job hunters display, themselves.  Make sure when you reach out to people for help that you are clear about what you want, give them ample time to respond, and maintain a realistic perspective of what they may (or may not) be able to do for you.

In this job market, “there but for the grace…” is a reality none of us can afford to ignore!