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Mixed signals

Mixed signals
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First Published: Fri, Sep 16 2011. 10 14 PM IST
Updated: Fri, Sep 16 2011. 10 14 PM IST
Yet again we start with a recent email from a reader:
Dear Mr. Vadukut,
(Two or three paragraphs of excessive praise for this column have been deleted due to space constraints. Available on request.)
Earlier this week, I ran into an old classmate at my local supermarket. We had not met for many years. But I secretly keep track of all of my classmates’ careers through LinkedIn, and... how shall I put it... the aesthetic merits of their spouses through Facebook.
Therefore, I know that he is currently employed in a world-class management consulting company here in Mumbai.
We made some pleasant conversation about life and work. Then, just before parting, he suddenly asked me if I was free to meet for coffee later. I agreed immediately.
Do you think he wants to offer me a job? I have always dreamed of working for his organization. It would be a huge break.
But then maybe he just want to have coffee and chat about useless topics? He was a topper in college, and is fully capable of that kind of underhandedness.
What should I do? Should I call him up and clarify? Should I prepare my CV? Or should I just mentally prepare for a cappuccino?
Please help.
Regards,
I. Kafflatte (Name changed)
Many thanks for your email Mr. Kafflatte.
Human beings, as we all know from years of buying annual gym memberships and helping to transfer funds from Nigeria, are creatures of tremendous optimism. Doubly so when it comes to workplace and cubicle issues.
In our minds, every exchange of business cards is a possible multi-million deal, every casual chat-up with the CEO in the buffet line is a potential chance to get on “The List”, and every 24-hour IT helpline number is a 24-hour IT helpline number.
How gullible we are.
OH MY GOD, THERE IS A GIANT PINK PANDA STANDING RIGHT BEHIND YOU!
See. Gullible.
But wait. Some of this optimism is justified. We’ve all heard of people who’ve got great breaks due to a combination of serendipity and opportunism.
For instance, I know a guy who once ran into his CEO on a plane. The CEO invited him over to the front of the plane, to first class, for a drink and chat. My resourceful friend took the golden opportunity to steal all the toiletries from the first class washrooms. (Both washrooms.)
Today, my Ghanaian friend is a successful trader with UBS.
Which is why a casual “coffee meeting” or “let’s have a drink” or “catch up after work” can often be so confusing.
A thousand questions go through one’s mind: Who is this person? Why does he suddenly want to meet? Is he trying to hire me? What is their basic salary like? Will he make an offer? How much time will I get to decide? What is my notice period? Isn’t that in my contract? Where is my contract? Where is that blue suitcase? WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU THREW IT AWAY BECAUSE YOUR MOISTURIZER EXPLODED INSIDE???
And so on.
But in fact there are a few simple ways to tell if your meeting has any agenda besides warm beverage.
For instance, who chooses the venue? People like to impress when making job offers. They try to choose swanky cafes, bars or restaurants to give the impression that expense is not a problem. But if they ask you to choose a venue, or opt for the nearest chain cafe, then give up hope. The offer, if any, is going to be rubbish. It will surely be one of those “the pay will get much better over time” con jobs.
Or, even worse, he/she is going to ask you for a job. Puke.
Another trick is to make a counteroffer. A day or two before the meeting, call up your friend and ask him if he wants to, instead, meet you and some ‘guys/dudes/machaans/brothers from another mother’ for a beer and bowling. If he agrees, then there is no offer forthcoming. If he insists on meeting alone, chances are that a CV will be involved.
Hints are also forthcoming from the early direction your meeting takes. In my experience, people dislike bringing in families or non-work topics if they want to talk shop. The conversation usually sticks to work and revolves around respective job profiles. So in case your friend starts off with “So how is the missus these days?”, save time and effort by standing up, shouting “How dare you!”, and walking out.
One last trick is to lunge for the bill at the cash counter. Potential recruits get everything free till they start work, after which they pay dearly. So when you lunge, your friend will create a scene. He may even say the magic words “Arrey leave it, my company will pay.”
At which point you can start revising your strengths and weaknesses.
(But in case you end up getting the bill, hand over a defunct debit card. I always carry one for this purpose. After two swipes, shrug shoulders, and let the other guy pay.)
Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life.Your comments are welcome at cubiclenama@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Sep 16 2011. 10 14 PM IST