Androcles revisited: a tale of networking

Remember Androcles?  According to Aesop’s fable, a slave named Androcles escaped into the forest, where he encountered an injured lion.  Androcles approached the lion, who held out a paw with a huge thorn, which the man removed.  The lion took Androcles to his cave and brought him meat every day.

The pair was captured, and Androcles was sentenced to death in the arena, to be eaten by (you knew this) a lion.  When the lion came charging out at his prey, he recognized his friend and licked his hand.  Whereupon, Androcles was freed and they all lived happily ever after.

I recently met  the newly-hired director of a regional arts center, whose story reminds me of Androcles.  Eric certainly has the qualifications for the job: he’s an established artist, has curated shows, and has previously worked in a government-funded arts organization.  He’s charming, determined, a great communicator, and enthusiastic about his field.  But so are many others, all of whom are his competition for jobs.  How on earth did he stand out?

I asked him to tell me about the extensive interview process, and this is his story:

At the end of the final interview, which was conducted by a panel, a woman said, “You don’t remember me, do you?” Eric acknowledged that he did not.  The woman reminded him that twenty years ago, she had contacted him at his previous position for advice for her husband, also an artist.  Eric gave her some information, a few leads, and followed up with a phone call on the husband’s behalf.  Eric had totally forgotten until she mentioned it, because after all, that’s what he did on that job.

He may have forgotten, but the woman and her husband never did.  They felt that he had given them leads to the break that established a new career in the arts.

Twenty years later, that woman was in a hiring position.

This absolutely true story, in snowy February, 2010, seems to me to be a modern telling of the old fable, illustrating a basic truth.  Generosity, competence, and sharing will never go out of style.  And sometimes they open doors to great things, even if it takes twenty years.  Congratulations, Eric.  You definitely deserve this job.

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5 Responses to “Androcles revisited: a tale of networking”

  1. Maureen Anderson Says:

    Great story, Anne. What goes around comes around, as the saying…goes, but it takes a while sometimes.

    It reminds me what motivational speaker Tim Sanders says about bullies who appear to be getting ahead in the world: “It’s the middle of the movie!”

  2. David Borchard Says:

    Great example of the value of fable in real life story. Don’t think I’m willing to pull a thorn from a lions paw, but an inducement to pursue a kinder, gentler, more empathetic path (not just because of possible return payment but for good deeds in themselves.

  3. anneheadley Says:

    Thank you, Maureen and Dave. I’m glad that you appreciate the story of Eric as modern-day Androcles. This makes me think about revisiting the fables of our childhood and harvesting those universal truths as career wisdom.

  4. Dorie Hightower Says:

    That was very inspiring, and I recall that was one of my favorite stories as a kid. I do think it’s about karma–what comes around goes around. Thanks for sharing that!

  5. Amy Headley Says:

    Great posting! It’s interesting and timely because I was remembering our friend from the paper company where I worked. She’d known you, LIKED you, and as a result helped me with securing a position. It truly does make a difference. You never know how that pebble you threw in the pond will ripple back to you, but it always does.

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