Self-Important Higher-ups Now Charging Underlings for Networking Chats

The NY Post reported this week that money-hungry professionals are starting to reject advice meetings with under-experienced subordinates unless they're paid for their time. Keep in mind that these people likely had meetings with their superiors when they were starting out, and that advice was probably free.

The article, written by Anna Davies, begins by disparaging a young writer for wanting to pick Davies' brain. She then discovers from her colleagues and friends that having to help a young professional with advice is the frequent complaint of many who think they are more important than other people.

"I offer free advice, when appropriate, but I feel it should be my call, not theirs," says Steve Cony, president of Communications Counselors, a full-service marketing consulting firm based in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. "When someone asks to pick my brain, I bristle. My brain is how I earn my living — would you ask a plumber to unclog a drain for free?"

No, Mr. Cony, you would not. But if you were a young plumber looking to getting into the drain-clearing business, you might reach out to a skilled plumber yourself and ask her what path she took to get there.

The speculation is that, since there are more freelancers than ever before, and since everyone is flat broke and both power-and-money hungry, the opportunity to make some green off of already cash-strapped beginning professionals is not to be missed.

From the NY Post:

Additionally, creative freelancers are finding that adding consulting to their list of marketable skills can boost their cash flow. Social media makes it easier than ever to find and contact potential mentors, and what may have been a polite phone call from a friend-of-a-friend two decades ago becomes a "Can you give me advice?" tweet from a stranger. Both factors influence how mentors perceive the task — and, experts agree, has led to the trend of monetizing the act.

As if networking and the premium put on "making connections" weren't already playing roles in proliferating the unchecked importance of hierarchical value and grandfathered creative skills, this supposed enterprising is only going to make things worse.

But don't let me tell you that. Here's Anne Chertoff:

The eponymous creator of Anne Chertoff Media, a boutique marketing agency that caters to the wedding industry, found a similar niche.

"I honestly got annoyed with people taking me to lunch and thinking that the cost of a meal could equal my contacts, expertise and advice, so I created a service called 'Pick My Brain' on my Web site. For $500, I give 90 or so minutes of whatever advice the customer needs," she explains.

Thankfully—and in an unlikely twist—Kate White, a former editor at Cosmopolitan comes to the rescue with some sage advice for anyone who is collecting money from their underlings: simply create an "exempt list."

"These might be relatives, or people you've worked with in the past, or people you know will return the favor," she advises. "When you know your list, it's easier to create guidelines for how to handle those who aren't on it. Maybe it's denying the request, maybe it's changing the coffee date to an e-mail back-and-forth."

As Davies' puts it, this could be where you find that "feel-good factor" in your life, the one these networking money-grabbers have long since been missing.

[Image via AP]