Dear E. Jean: I set up my boyfriend with his dream job through a friend of mine from college. He told me she “helped him a lot with advice” and was “very supportive.” Well, a few days after he started the job, he broke up with me.
Listen to what happened next: Now I’m looking for a job, applying at the same company, and my friend from college is totally ignoring me! Why?
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—Unemployed and Desperate
Unemployed, my peach: Why? Because you’re overdrawn at the Favor Bank. You know about the Favor Bank, right? Tom Wolfe coined the name in The Bonfire of the Vanities. Let’s review: You asked your college friend to get your lover a job at her company—a major honkin’ favor and a huge withdrawal from your account at the Favor Bank. She, in turn, was compelled to withdraw favors from her account at the Favor Bank to get your dude interviews with her company’s executives and to see to it that he was hired. So now her account at the Favor Bank is running in the red. Therefore, when you call and ask about a job for yourself—bah! No way. Both of you are in Favor Bank Suckage.
It also didn’t help that she may be the company Mean Girl, probably liked your guy, and probably wanted to keep you away from him. Never mind. If you don’t learn to work the Favor Bank, your career will be over before it starts.
The rules are simple: 1. Do major favors for those above you and minor favors for those below you. (And don’t tell me you don’t know who is above and below. Your Homo sapiens brain is fixed on little else besides sex and where you stand in comparison to others.) 2. Do favors for months, years. (Volunteer to work at a startup company for free; arrange internships for people’s brothers at your uncle’s sporting-goods business; offer yourself as a Spanish/ math/history tutor to a CEO’s children, gratis; make a Facebook page for a busy businesswoman and oversee its development; visit entrepreneurs’ websites, make their videos viral, write eye-catching comments, etc.) Ask nothing in return. 3. Then when you need the Big Favor—like a job—everybody owes you.
This letter is from the E. Jean archive.