How many degrees of separation?

8 01 2008

Late this afternoon I get an email from someone I don’t know. Let’s call him Mark. He addresses me by name and tells me that someone else (let’s call him Larry) from some company I’ve never heard of has recommended me for some proof reading work.

I’m intrigued, so I call Mark. I tell him I don’t know Larry or Larry’s company. Mark fortunately remembers that Larry actually got my name from someone else—let’s call him Rob S. Somewhere in the dim recesses of my brain I vaguely recall someone of this name—he was the contact person at a printing company. But I’ve never met Rob. I only know his name because I recall that a friend of mine—let’s call her Kris—mentioned him some years ago when I edited some company prospectuses for her.

So, I do some work for Kris back in 2000/2001. She mentions my work to Rob. Sometime between 2001 and 2008 (!), Rob—whom I’ve never met and never done any work for—mentions my name to Larry, who remembers it and mentions it to Mark, who has enough information about me to find my website and send me an email requesting an hourly rate quote for occasional proof reading!

What’s that? Four or five degrees of separation?

BTW, Mark’s happy with my hourly rate quote over the phone and is happy to hire me to do work for him on an ad hoc basis, purely based on a recommendation. That’s what it’s all about! Love it.

Update (1 February 2008): It’s happened again! This afternoon I get an email out of the blue from someone I don’t know (M) who works for a company (A) I’ve never worked for. It’s a pretty generic email asking about my availability for some Word template work. I’m not available, so I respond saying so. I get an email back thanking me for a suggestion I made, and stating “I heard you were the best Technical Writer around – obviously your commitment speaks for itself!”

So, taking the bait, I ask who they’d heard that from. The return email gives me a name (J) and company (C). I don’t know the name, and I’ve never done work for company C. BUT… I have worked with someone (F) who’s currently at company C. Now, before you think, “Ah! That’s easy!”, let me tell you that company C is a global company with some 15,000+ employees in numerous locations throughout the world (think of a company starting with C + oil and gas…). I last worked with F back in 2002 or thereabouts. And I’m not even sure that’s where the connection is.

Cue Twilight Zone music about now…