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Have you ever found yourself in a situation where people ignore you and then change their attitude the moment they hear your job title?
But Mr. FAF has been in that situation frequently after he got three job offers from three giant tech companies in the US a few months ago.
For the past six years, Mr. FAF has been in a PhD program in Computer Science where he got a meager monthly stipend in exchange for performing teaching and research assignments.
It wasn’t a glorious life by any means. While some people were impressed that he was pursuing a doctoral degree, the reality is that Mr. FAF lived the life of a poor PhD student during our four-year marriage.
He lived in a (shabby) makeshift room which was originally a garage. The rent was $250/month, and it included everything (i.e. utilities, internet).
Two armed robbers broke into the house and threatened the lives of his roommates and landlord just 20 minutes before Mr. FAF came home one day.
Mr. FAF refused to move because the rent was low, and he wanted to save money.
Earlier this year, Mr. FAF started his job search. He reached out to many people to network and seek job leads.
Some offered him great advice, and some just didn’t have the time or the willingness to help. Mr. FAF ended up getting three offers as a Software Engineer from three giant tech companies in the US.
After his colleagues, friends, and acquaintances learned about the offers, Mr. FAF’s life seems to have turned over a new leaf.
The female colleague who didn’t even bother to look at him when she ran into him every day has become overly enthusiastic to talk to him. She smiles at Mr. FAF and asks him how his day is going whenever she sees him. She even asked him to give a talk about the job interview process in a class she’s teaching.
The colleagues who didn’t respond to Mr. FAF messages on Facebook asking about housing now suddenly likes every of his new statuses and sent him private messages to congratulate him on the new job offers.
The friend who gave Mr. FAF a lukewarm response when Mr. FAF wanted to learn more about their companies added him on LinkedIn all of a sudden and called him to ask about his job offers.
Some people suddenly became friendly after years of not talking to Mr. FAF and asked him for advice on how to get into the same companies.
Mr. FAF, though happy about what he has accomplished, is not so thrilled with the sudden change of attitude from his colleagues and “friends.” If people just want to get to know him and talk to him because of his job title, what would happen to the relationship if one day Mr. FAF decided to quit or do a manual job for a living?
Many people might just enjoy the attention and don’t overthink it. But we don’t want someone to befriend us just because they know they can get something out of the friendship.
It’s also sad to think that we didn’t have anything of value to offer to other people to the extent that they treated us like we didn’t exist before.
I think this might happen to men more than women. Social stereotypes dictate that men need to be successful and wealthy while women need to be pretty and attractive. That’s what makes a good first impression.
I once heard a story about a guy going to a Meetup group and got ignored by a girl he wanted to talk to.
The girl changed her attitude completely once she overheard him telling someone else that he was a pharmacist. By that time, he had already known what about him she was interested in and no longer had any interest in talking with her.
Are we guilty too?
It’s easy to blame other people for doing something we don’t like. But are we guilty of that too? If I go to an event and meet someone working at my dream job, I’m sure I’d show them a different kind of admiration than someone working at a company I have never heard of or in a field that I’m not familiar with.
It’s not because I respect the latter less in any way. But my mind has been hardwired to associate a big brand with prestige, a high salary, intelligence, integrity, and hard work (think Google and their employees).
Each employee may differ in their qualifications and performance, but once someone has passed the threshold to join a certain company (think Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Chase), we tend to associate their value with the company’s reputation, sometimes subconsciously.
To draw it closer to home, would you be more interested in talking to a big blogger such as Joe at Retire By 40 or Michelle at Making Sense of Cents or to me, a newbie blogger if we all showed up at the same conference?
While it’s good to network with everyone and meet other bloggers who are at similar stages, I’m sure you would find it inspirational and thrilling to talk to the big names in the personal finance community. Who wouldn’t be?
Where do we draw the line?
Mr. FAF and I try not to do something that we don’t want other people to do to us. Giving other people special treatment just because they have something we can take advantage of while not caring about their values is one of those things.
We really admire those who work hard and build their success from scratch. But we also know that no one can become a superstar all by themselves. Mr. FAF and I have gone this far in our journey thanks to the help that we have received from families, friends, and those who don’t know us well but are willing to give us a hand.
We have to admit that we haven’t done the best job of staying in touch with them and giving them the attention that they deserve. We are still working on improving our relationships with the ones we love and care about.
There is nothing wrong with trying to get to know and stay connected with someone we admire and aspire to. After all, connection and networking is what helps us successful.
And someone’s job title, to some extent, reflects their qualifications, dreams, and socioeconomic status in today’s society. Sometimes it’s their job title that can help us get our dream job, build our dream business, and get us in touch with the big influencers.
But if we ask the question “Will I still treat them the same way if they didn’t have that job title?” can help us determine whether we care about someone as a person rather rather than a potential added benefit to our lives. It’s because once that benefit no longer exists, the relationship will also vanish.
For Mr. FAF, he knows that regardless of his job title, I will still feel the same way about him as I did when he was still a poor student living in the $250/month garage turned bedroom.