As you know, each week I publish a list of our new members and I ask each member of our august body to call at least one person from the list. I sometimes spend close to a full day out of my personal schedule to review new member candidates. I only ask that each of you call one person — a rough time commitment of about 15 minutes. If you do it every other week or every third week, I can live with that too.
Although the truth is we don’t have quite as many members calling new members as I would hope, it still happens a lot more than I ever thought it would when I first suggested it back in 1997 (back at the beginning of time itself). There is hardly a new member that I speak with these days who hasn’t gotten called by someone they didn’t know as a result of our new member announcement. Of course, they also get calls from those who have known them over the course of their careers and with whom they have not been in touch with for a long period of time. (I call this part “Matt’s lost friends society.”)
Because all members of The FENG need a sponsor to join, you could say that an act of friendship starts the whole process, and you would be right. Those applicants who lack a sponsor only have to contact me (an act of considerable courage), and we try to find them someone they know in The FENG. If that proves difficult, we introduce them to neighbors based on their telephone exchange, and if they live in an area where we have lots of members, someone specifically from their areas of expertise. In this way they also start out in The FENG with a memorable act of friendship.
Extending the hand of friendship to new members of OUR organization is one of your most important membership responsibilities. And, like most acts of friendship, the rewards are often hard to describe. The truth is you usually get as much out of calling another person as they get from receiving your call. According to Murphy’s law, no good deed goes unpunished. Your punishment in this case is an opportunity to practice what we preach – that our little circle of friends is unique, and one of the reasons it is unique is that we REALLY do try to help each other.
For those of us who are now distant from that first piece of time when we began our job search, it can be hard to remember the feelings. Friends we reached out to who we were sure would help either couldn’t or wouldn’t. Others who we felt would not be able to be of assistance provided support in ways that were unexpected. (Isn’t it grand how life is full of surprises?)
I hope none of you dismiss The FENG as a job listing service. Sure, we are publishing pages and pages of job leads a month, but if that was all there was I would have stopped spending time on this long ago.
What we have before us as individuals is an opportunity to build on the fine traditions of those who have come before us. Primarily we teach each other to fish, rather than provide each other with fish. It is much more effective. This teaching we do is yet another act of friendship for which The FENG is well known and well respected.
Our folkways and relationships with each other are sustainable only if we all work at it. I hope all of you will.
As I have said before: Every day and in every way, it all begins with you.