Piggybacking off of Steve's post about undermining your career I feel inspired to delve a little deeper into the topic of when enough is enough. By way of a little setup, I'm notorious for my inability to say no...
About four or five weeks ago I had a gentleman walk into the lobby in my office requesting to meet with somebody in HR or recruiting. The receptionist dialed my extension and I was promptly connected with him. He stated that he was working on a class project and needed no more than 5 minutes of my time to ask a few questions promising that he was not there peddling his resume. My gut told me I was just asking for trouble, but it was a slow day, I was at a good stopping point in my work, and I could use a short break from staring into my monitor. Sure, I'll do my good deed for the day.
We met, I answered a few questions about interview tactics, resume writing, and my view on the industry. As promised he only took 5 minutes of my time, didn't hand over a resume, and went on his merry way. I happily got back to my desk having had a little breather and finished out my day. No problem, right? Wrong.
This gentleman now thinks I am his personal career consultant. Without being rude I made it very clear that I have a job which keeps me busy and I can't be helping him re-write a resume or set meetings with him to discuss job search strategy. Generally speaking patience is one of my strong suits, but mine is starting to wear thin in this instance. That said, I (as politely as possible) have for the third time asked him to quit calling because I am not the person to help him.
This got me to thinking: when do we reach a point, professionally, when enough is enough? I try to make sure that whether the request comes from a job seeker, another department, or a peer, I do what I can within reason to accommodate. However, there comes a time when no more can be handled, or the requests have become unreasonable. How do you know you when you've been pushed too far. Further, how do you respectfully decline without damaging a relationship?
I don't think there is a perfect solution, but I suspect that successfully sidestepping such issues requires a good amount of tact and diplomacy.