is my mentor ignoring my emails?

A reader writes:

While I worked at a mid-sized company, I developed a wonderful mentor relationship with one of my managers. He has always been very supportive, offering to be my job reference, etc.

After 2.5 years working together, I left to work abroad at another company for 1.5 years. We kept in touch while I was away and I actively nurtured the connection through Christmas cards, periodic emails, and birthday wishes. He was always very responsive and quite frankly, one of the few people in my network that actually replied to my emails. And just to clarify, I also try to make sure I am not “harassing” anyone in my network – I limit my emails to holidays, birthdays, and particularly relevant news articles. I never email any person more than once a month unless it’s in reply to something they sent me.

Anyway, when I returned in October 2014, he was one of the first people that knew I met up with. He had since moved to another very high profile agency. He was very happy to see me and towards the end of our catch up session – of his own accord – remarked that he may have a job opening up that he’d love for me to consider. I enthusiastically expressed my excitement, as I would love to work for him (he is a great manager) and it is a very good position I would quite frankly die for. He told me to follow up with him in January 2015.

Our only contact from October to January were brief holiday wishes I sent him for Thanksgiving (he replied) as I was busy studying for a graduate exam.

As promised, I followed up with him via email in the first week of January. I did not mention the possible job, just asked him if he was free for coffee, figuring I could ask in person. But for the first time ever, he did not respond to my first email. Baffled, one week later I sent him a short follow-up. He quickly responded, saying we “need to catch up” and apologized for not responding more quickly. But when I asked about what day/time would work best for him, he once again did not reply. I also sent him one short email with a news link I saw about him successfully pulling off a huge event. No reply.

To refrain from bothering him, I didn’t reach out until February. In this email, I did not mention meeting at all and simply asked for a LinkedIn recommendation to help me with my job hunt. I offered to write a draft if that would make it easier for him. He replied four days later, asking me to send him a draft and once again he said we had to meet up. I promptly sent him a draft the next day plus a request for a date/time convenient for him. I did not hear back at all, so one week later I offered to write him another draft if he didn’t like the first one. I did not mention meeting up as I figured if he wanted to see me, he would say so. At this point, I have also accepted there is no job for me and I do not plan on ever mentioning it unless he does. That was two weeks ago. I have not heard from him since and I have not reached out because for the first time, I am worried if I am bothering him or worse, I did something is wrong.

Should I ask him if I did something wrong or am I just being paranoid? I am just very confused about my mentor’s sudden change/unresponsiveness….BUT at the same time, I know it is possible he is just straight up busy…. What do you think I should do? Should I just stop contacting him/am i being a pest?

To me, this just sounds like someone who’s really busy, and I wouldn’t read into it anything more than that.

It also sounds like you’ve maybe gone a little bit overboard on all the reaching out, especially when you’re getting signals that he’s busy. And not just with him, but maybe more broadly. If you’re emailing people in your network as much as monthly and not hearing back much (since you said he’s one of the only ones you hear back from), you might be making people feel … well, a little bombarded. It sounds like a lot of contact if you’re the one who’s initiating all of it. There are certainly networking relationships that have this much or more contact, but the test is whether it goes both ways or not. If you’re always the initiator and you’re not getting loads of responses, I’d say that’s a sign to tone it down.

That said, with this guy in particular, it sounds like you have a strong relationship. I’d write the recent lack of responsiveness off to him being busy … but also take that as a sign to put fewer demands on the relationship, at least for a while. And I know you’re probably thinking “sending an article isn’t making any demands on him!” — but it can come across as another contact that needs to be acknowledged.

When you’re getting these kinds of signals, save the contacts for the big stuff that really matters.

Also! Totally unrelated, but you have one of my pet peeves in your letter so I have to address it: “I did not mention the possible job, just asked him if he was free for coffee, figuring I could ask in person.” I’m sure you didn’t think of it like this, but this made a much greater demand on his time and his energy than if you’d just gone ahead and asked him your question. As a busy person (and as a direct person), if someone has a specific question they want to ask me, I’d so much rather have them just ask me, rather than couching it in the guise of a coffee meet-up, which I have to schedule, travel to and from, make small talk at, and so forth. Just ask the question!

(Now, obviously, if the two of you meet for coffee all the time, then this doesn’t apply.)

Anyway. Pull back on the contact. Leave things in his court. If months go by with no contact, then sure, reach out at that point. But I’d give him some breathing room right now.

{ 73 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    By my standards, he went from being an awesome communicator to being more like the rest of us.

    But yeah, it sounds like the contact generally may be a bit much, and I don’t think sending people stuff automatically means you’re nurturing a connection; it can be a part of it, but it’s more nuanced than that.

    1. JB*

      I agree on the nurturing on comment.

      On a related note, you should tailor the kinds of communications for each particular person. Someone who loves celebrating birthdays would probably appreciate a birthday message, but others would find it strange.

      I had a friend in law school who saw herself as a nice, considerate person, and she often did things for friends that in her mind backed up that identity. But the problem was that she did things for others that she herself would like people to do for her. She put no thought into whether it was something the other person would actually want. I let that friendship drift away because she so often did things to be nice to me that were things I really didn’t care about, but the stuff I really would have appreciated, she never did. I mean, thanks for buying me the mug that has an inspirational message on it to cheer me up for finals, but maybe instead we can spend at least some of our study group meetings talking about my questions instead of only covering what you need help with?

      The point of my long story is that, like fposte said, you can’t do boilerplate, one size fits all actions to nurture connections.

      1. Melissa*

        Yes, I have mentoring relationships with former students and employees and I would find it odd if they emailed me to wish me a happy birthday or sent me a Christmas card. I’m always happy when they reach out to let me know about a new accomplishment, though – a job, a graduate school admission, summer program, etc.

  2. nona*

    I don’t think people would feel bombarded by an email a month. But it does sound like this guy and other people are busy or prioritizing other things, so I would dial it back.

    1. maggie*

      What if this person has 100+ emails per day. And not just spam and automatic system notifications, but actual ‘make a decision, communicate ideas, approve’ type questions that really do take quite a bit of brain power to get through.

      To me, it sounds like his last role allowed him to develop some of his interests, one of which was mentorship. And it’s great that he had the kind of role that afforded him that kind of time. This new role sounds like he’s directing a program and at that point you’re more of an administrator than a mentor with very little free time to yourself, let alon time to nurture network relationships that don’t directly impact the role/agency. So I would say that now is simply not a good time. And the more you communicate, the worse you make him feel because of course he would respond IF HE COULD. And the more you write, the worse it gets, and the more he avoids, in a spiraling circle of guilt. I would just…..cease all communication, save the christmas and birthday cards. No more articles, no more virtual high fives, he clearly just needs some time for himself — and this isn’t a reflection on you, but he needs to get his bearings in his new role. It should calm down in 6 months to a year. (wow, it totally sounds like dating! But it’s still totally possible.)

    2. fposte*

      It’s not so much about being bombarded, as it’s a pretty frequent contact that has little to no benefit for the person receiving it (and remember, mentors likely have a lot of people who contact them like this). I’m happy to mentor people, but it’s not helpful to get essentially contentless material just to remind me that this person exists and wants my help. Less often with more juice keeps me a lot more interested; I confess I wouldn’t even prioritize opening a monthly email.

      1. tesyaa*

        Just the thought of getting even a monthly useless email from a contact annoys me. I often don’t have time to communicate with my actual BFFs.

        1. Green*

          Yes. I think a Christmas card and let me know when you need something is perfectly sufficient from most of my networking contacts.

          Outside of truly warm relationships and friendships, a lot of pretty direct people would rather a general networking contact just ask for what you need without all the extra relationship-building stuff. We get that it goes both ways and we might need help another time, and I’m usually happy to help.

          1. Green*

            … and then after I posted this I got anxious and sent a relationship-building stuff email to my best reference.

    3. Artemesia*

      I had a very famous colleague whom I had a good relationship and would provide interesting insights when I was planning research etc etc — he pretty much never responded to my emails which I thought a bit odd until I realized that he, being world famous, had literally hundreds of professional emails from everywhere every week.

  3. Sarah*

    It sounds like when you are asking to meet with him for coffee you are also asking him to provide a date/time (and potentially a location). If that’s true, when you do reach back out to him (or anyone else in your network for that matter) I’d try offering a specific time or a couple of times. Often “Tuesdays tend to be a quiet day for me, how about coffee on the afternoon of the 10th?” is easier to respond to than “we should get coffee this month/week!”. Looking at a specific time (or even day of the week) generally is less overwhelming than looking at a already full calendar and trying to come up with a time.

    1. OhNo*

      Plus, their response to an specific invitation like that gives you a better idea of their interest in following up on it. It’s something I see mentioned in dating advice a lot, but it applies to any kind of event or meet-up that you are trying to schedule. For example:

      “Yes, I’d love to” = obviously, high level of interest
      “I can’t do the 10th, how about the 15th” = also pretty high level of interest
      “I’m busy next week, but my schedule is lighter the week after next – I’ll let you know when I’m free” = some interest
      “I’m busy then, but we should do something at some point” = low level of interest

      1. maggie*

        That last is the clincher. I know I am being brushed off when I get the:

        ‘oh, heeeey! Ya, we stiiiillll need to get together, don’t we? I’ll email you next week! Awesome, great running into you!!’ *hairflip* <—-super polite brushoff.

        And the email version of that is 'Hey! When's coffee?!' when you both know you have already tried to make something work five times previously. I really wish people were more direct: 'I really don't have a whole lot of free time these days. Can we shoot for a few months from now?' That way, they have the freedom, and I know that they would get together for coffee in — a perfect world, which doesn't make me feel bad about myself. haha!

    2. Another Ellie*

      This is something that bugs me when trying to plan meetings with people. Even if you’re unemployed and have absolutely *nothing* on your calendar, you should still give some constrained options. If you’re worried that the person is really busy, add a disclaimer that tells them you might be able to accommodate other times.

      Aside from the fact that it puts everybody in an awkward position if there are no guidelines, it’s likely that you actually *do* have days and times you’d rather meet than not. What if they’re a morning person, and suggest 7am, but you’d have to wake up at 5am to get to their location? What if you’re relying on a train that only runs every other hour between 10am and 3pm? What if you have a completely open schedule, except your Thursday morning yoga class, and they happen to choose something that conflicts with Thursday morning yoga?

  4. MK*

    Also consider the possibility that there is something going on in his personal life thathe needs to focus on.

    1. the gold digger*

      Yeah, when a boss at an old job got really distant, I worried that it was something I had done. Turned out his unmarried 24 year old daughter was pregnant and the father wanted nothing to do with the daughter or their baby.

      (She moved in with her mom and dad, had the baby, finished school, and married someone else a few years ago. So – happy ending.)

      1. maggie*

        I didn’t even think of his personal life. God forbid he recently got in trouble with the wife for *cough* mentoring others *cough*. O.o

        1. Leave Me Alone :-)*


          I thought the same thing. The entire “my mentor” idea became questionable due to the unnecessary and frequent contact. Holidays? Fine. Monthly email articles and the constant “when, when, when” for coffee and face to face contact is a bit much.

          1. Melissa*

            Well, I don’t know how old/experienced the letter writer is, but I wouldn’t necessarily assume that the contact was inappropriate. When I was in undergrad and grad school, I got the constant advice that networking was about getting people’s contact information at conferences and then staying in contact with them periodically to remind them of who you were so they wouldn’t forget you. Sending them interesting articles and insights were definitely the kinds of things that people said were good ideas – even for people you simply met at a conference and had a couple conversations with!

            So OP might just be doing what she thought was advisable or the best way to maintain a relationship with a mentor.

        2. the gold digger*

          I worked for a professor when I was in grad school. I didn’t think anything of him – he is my mother’s age and he was married, so he was just this old married guy to me. An old married guy who was paying me $20 an hour to do research.

          He stopped giving me work, telling me that his wife didn’t want him hanging around “nubile 29 year olds.”

          I was completely baffled as I had never thought of him as a sexual object.

    2. KimmieSue*

      This! But professionally as well. Perhaps the new job at the bigger agency is much bigger and doesn’t allow the time that the previous job did (for staying in touch and networking). He likely sincerely wants to stay in touch but doesn’t have the bandwidth to satisfy his intentions?

  5. Bevina del Ray*

    I don’t mean to be unkind to the OP, but I think you seem to dance around what you want. When you contacted him in the new year, I’d have said something like, “I’m following up with you to see how you’re doing, and to move forward with the possibility of the position we discussed previously.” I’d then add, as suggested above/below, specific dates and times. I’d also make it easy for him by making it a place that’s very near to his office, and that doesn’t take up much time. He’s undoubtedly quite busy, but also, you don’t seem like you’re being direct or a go-getter in terms of how you present the information. Ask for what you want.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Yeah, I wondered about the OP not mentioning the job ever again in any of the emails sent, after the October one. As Alison pointed out, it should have been mentioned in the January email. If I were the mentor, I might think, “Well, I guess she wasn’t that interested in it,” shrug my shoulders and move on. It’s especially odd when the OP is job hunting and asking for LI recommendations from the mentor. I understand not wanting to be a pest, but in this case you have to advocate for yourself, not wait for others to figure out what you want.

      (Also, been there, done that and sympathize with the OP. . .12 months of counseling to learn to be more direct at home.)

      1. maggie*

        I can understand that, OP might not have the best confidence in asking for what she wants. Or was taught that in order to have job conversations that they need to follow a particular networking rulebook (they don’t). I also noticed, like others did, that she continued to put the decision making on Ex Manager instead of saying something like ‘I am available ________, and wanted to check out that _______ place by your office. Is your schedule lighter _____ days or _____ days?’. Boom, 4 decisions that Ex Manager doesn’t have to make, which is a really nice gesture to someone who spends all day making decisions. (I remember being Big Boss and when I came home from work, I refused all decision making — which my husband adored, thankfully.)

        1. Koko*

          This is so true. The easiest way to get me to do something for you is to make all or most of the decisions for me and just tell me what you need from me. Then I’ll either tell you I can do it, and do it, or tell you I can’t. If you want me to make decisions I’m going to keep putting off responding to your email until I have time to think about it. And I’m probably not going to find time to think about it because every time I start to, something more urgent will come up.

          This is doubly true if you’re emailing my work email address. For some reason it rarely occurs to me to follow up to personal correspondence at my work email address when I’m at home in the evening.

  6. Amelia*

    Thanks, AAM and others who have commented on exactly when happens often in my life. I have been an informal and formal “mentor” to many and it often takes me 3 – 4 weeks to get back to people, not because I don’t want to but because I am swamped with HR related issues at work, caregiving, volunteering, and representing my company at fundraising functions. I am not saying that my own poor time management is an excuse for not getting back to people, but sometimes, despite my best efforts and intentions, I wind up not responding as fast as I’d like.

    Don’t give up on your mentor just yet!

    1. maggie*

      Psssh, you should see some of our students trying to get a hold of their formal physician mentors and preceptors. Yeesh, those kids learn patience very quickly.

      ps. Thank you for mentoring. :)

  7. Rex*

    Yes, I agree with everyone else that he is swamped. It sounds like he has just started a new job, so maybe he is still on the learning curve for this new position? Also, he might be a little annoyed that after he had already sent you a bunch of signals that he is busy, you asked him for a LinkedIn recommendation, which isn’t really a very high yield job hunting tactic, in my experience. He may have felt that was an inconsiderate use of his time.

    1. maggie*

      Am I the only one who has yet to ask for a recommendation? I feel so weird about ASKING for it. This may be a female thing too? I don’t want to stereotype against my own gender. Shoot, maybe I should ask Alison about this…

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think they carry close to zero weight. If they show up, great, but I wouldn’t put effort into getting them. Private recommendations are what count.

  8. The OP*

    Hi everyone! I am the OP :)
    Thanks for input everyone (and AAM for answering my question). Now that I read over my email, I realize that I’ve just been spoiled with good communication in the past and he probably is just busy at work/something in his personal life. I guess what I’ll do is in March, I’ll send him an email along the lines of what Bevina del Ray wrote (aka just ask directly about the position)+offer a few specific times. If I don’t hear from him then, I’ll defintely just not reach out for a few months. As for everyone else in my network, for the people I rarely hear from, I’ll just tone it down to just birthdays and holidays.

    Regarding the “dancing around” comments: I am usually straightforward, but in this case, my thought process was that I didn’t want to pressure him to “give me a job” and figured couching it in a regular coffee catch up (which we do fairly regularly) would be more low key. However, I can see that my intention to ask in person could be easily seen as manipulative.

    To be honest, networking has never come easily to me. In college and through most of my early 20s I basically looked down on networking – I hated the idea of it and never bothered. But then I started seeing how it was really affecting my career – not so much as for the purposes of job hunting even, but because I realized I didn’t have anyone to turn to ask career-related questions/advice etc. After that, I tried really hard to build a network of professional relationships, but as you can probably guess, I don’t have a natural instinct for it :( Oy, live and learn I guess…

    Anyway, I’ll let everyone know how it goes come March/April-ish!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      So I’m curious to hear what others think about this, but I’d nix the birthday emails for anyone who’s a business, rather than personal, connection. I don’t care a whit about business contacts acknowledging my birthday. And it actually could feel weirdly personal in some contexts. Holiday greetings, fine, but I’d cut the birthday emails too. Do people disagree?

      1. EmmBee*

        The birthday thing struck me as weird, too. Especially because (in my experience) the older you get, the less important birthday become, so it feels odd and forced to continue getting birthday wishes from past colleagues/mentees.

      2. Lightly Salted*

        Agree. Maybe because it’s age related, it is more personal. I have worked at a large retail store for the past year and a half. I recently learned that the store manager sends annual, personalized birthday cards to staff at home. I personally thought it was nice and thoughtful, except she wrote Happy “29th” Birthday with my actual age written in the card. Who does that in a work related context? We don’t work closely together at all but even if we did I found it odd to include the actual age.

        1. Anon369*

          Agreed. The “age” bit makes it feel personal since I shy away from anything age-related in the workplace.

      3. fposte*

        I would agree. And my office actually celebrates birthdays, but that’s because we’re here; once we’ve moved to different places, that’s not a contact-worthy thing.

      4. HSP INFP*

        I think it depends on the relationship – because birthdays are fairly personal. I have a soul sister level relationship with one of my former bosses and I always acknowledge hers and her kids’ birthdays.

        One of my mentors is very high profile in the industry and I hadn’t reached out to her in a while. So I sent her a happy birthday wish and a very short update on what I was up to in the same email, and she seemed to really appreciate both. It sounds like OP has a close relationship with this particular manager, so perhaps it makes sense for them but not necessarily for most others in their network.

      5. newb*

        I agree, as well; outreach-type contact from anybody from work on my birthday or even holidays, to me, feels….intrusive and too much “worlds colliding.”

        OP, it sounds like you are thoughtful and have the right attitude, though, so I hope you can figure it out (who knows what’s up with this guy…he could have his own serious stuff happening and extra work has just fallen by his wayside). Good luck!

        1. Green*

          A lot of vendors and services firms (like law firms) do a holiday outreach in December to clients, so it’s pretty common to get a company “winter holiday” card (or better yet, a basket of goodies!). But any other holiday is weird.

        2. Ali*

          I don’t know I really agree on this. At my job, we all have each other on Facebook and wish each other happy birthday, and it all seems to be appreciated or not taken as weird. I went out to dinner with my team near my birthday last year, and my boss handed me the menu and told me to pick out a dessert. But I can’t say we are the typical white-collar environment either. We’re all young (20s-30s) and a pretty social group.

          I did wish one of my contacts happy birthday on his Facebook, and he did tell me when he saw me later that day he appreciated it. But we’re also pretty close in age and can be more like peers rather than a mentoring relationship, yet we’re not friends either.

          Still, maybe it’s just that my circle is odd and outside of my social norms? But I’ve never found it a problem, and when I’ve wished contact-type people a happy birthday, they don’t find it weird.

      6. Chief Detail Officer*

        I’m with everyone else–do not care bout business contacts acknowledging my birthday, and would be annoyed by this type of communication. Holiday greetings are fine.

      7. Revanche*

        It doesn’t annoy me but I don’t care about it. Except if you’re GEICO and doing it to shill for business like every birthday and holiday. GO AWAY GEICO.

      8. T White*

        if it’s known that the person shuns birthday cards and wishes, then I would definitely nix the b’day emails. I had a manager once that did not want us to acknowledge his birthday. He thought it was unprofessional.

      1. KM*

        Why do you think so? You think it’s too late or something?

        I think asking once would be ok…I was also thinking she should apologize about not asking sooner. I mean it sounds like she never asked straight out about it before. But if he doesn’t bring it up again later, then she should definitely not bring it up again.

        1. Green*

          I guess it depends on the person and the field they’re in. In my field, if someone tells you to do something in January and you do it 2 months later–especially after having contacted them about coffee and LinkedIn recommendations while ignoring the “busy signal”–you’re probably not getting whatever job may or may not exist. There’s a risk of looking tone-deaf and/or needy at this point, and I’d personally back off from this relationship for a while and wait several months before reaching out again. I think the direct approach is the best way to go in the future, but I’d give him a bit more of a break than a few weeks first.

          1. The Strand*

            I had the same thought. But you never know. Perhaps there’s another person she could find out directly from or do a little recon to see if a position is actually available.

    2. hbc*

      OP, because of history, I would leave him a very clear option for not responding without guilt. In fact, I’d be doing it in all of your emails, especially with articles (because that can feel like a reading assignment plus a required thoughtful response.) When you reach out in March, end with something like, “I know you must be busy, so if going out for coffee or even responding to this email feels like another item on a massive to-do list, just consider it a wave hello and we’ll catch up another time.”

      If he’s actually busy, that wave of gratitude crashing over him will make him feel more positively inclined when he opens up your next email.

  9. Turanga Leela*

    I’m curious to hear how often people here do reach out to mentors. I do general update emails (personalized, not an e-blast) once or twice a year, and then if I see the person’s name in the news or something. Two former professors have chided me for not emailing more regularly, so I should probably be reaching out more often to them, but how often is normal for the rest of you?

    1. Brigitte*

      One of my mentees used to email me for two specific reasons: 1) If she had a specific work question to run past me, either in her current role or as she considered a new one, and 2) When she had big news to report.

      We’re in PR, so an example would be when she called me to tell me about her first time working with the Today show. I probably only heard from her once or twice a year, but I was so happy to celebrate her professional successes with her. Her wins felt like my wins by proxy, which made me even more motivated to help her.

      As an aside, she now works for me!

    2. AnotherAnon*

      I’ve emailed mine every few years or so, but I always agonized about the timing – should I wait until I have X accomplishment (i.e. just passed qualifying exams, just got a paper accepted, etc.) before I email them an update and ask how they’re doing, or should I just email them intermittently and not bring up anything that might come off as too self-congratulatory?

      I finished my PhD in the last year, and afterwards I emailed 5 or 6 people whom I consider mentors – professors whom I’d worked for or TAed for as an undergraduate, who’d encouraged me to apply to graduate school and wrote me letters of rec for admission and grad school fellowship applications, as well as mentors at my PhD school outside my grad school department (whom I’d informally invited to my defense but didn’t come) – and wrote them a few sentences about how I had finished my PhD and was now moving on to position X, thanking them again for helping me along the way/being an awesome mentor/teacher, and asking what was new with them. I received one reply (just a congratulations), but the rest never responded. I have to say it still stings a little, although I know I shouldn’t take things personally, since I understand they’re all very busy people.

    3. Melissa*

      It depends on the relationship. My undergraduate mentors, I reach out to them sporadically – when something happens, basically, like when I won a fellowship, when I defended my dissertation to update them where I was going next, etc. My graduate school mentor I contact more frequently – actually, probably around once a month, but that’s because we still have some pending work together AND he has asked for those kinds of contacts.

      For my own mentees I am totally fine with them just connecting with me when they either get big news or need something from me (like advice or a recommendation). I don’t need regular emails from them. I’m actually surprised any professor would want MORE emails because even if you only connect in that way with 5% of your students…over time, that can be a lot of students, and to my knowledge professors get a lot of email. Even at a small college you could end up teaching 100-150 students a semester.

    4. Revanche*

      2 mentors are also close friends so I text and email with them very regularly, sometimes daily, sometimes monthly. Another mentor that I’m not close friends with is a see once a year and email about 3 times a year type. Varies very much depending on our relationship!

  10. Scott*

    It’s also possible (though I hope not) that he has a serious health or family issue that he’s dealing with. I know because I’m the type that keeps in contact with people but after my dad passed away I disappeared for a couple months and a few more casual acquaintances asked if they’d done anything wrong–they hadn’t, it was just me.

    1. Sally*

      I came here to write just this. My former boss (who I’ve had a very strong relationship with) recently got really unresponsive, when we finally did catch up it turned out that his own mentor had recently passed away and his little 3-year-old niece/god-daughter lost her battle with incurable brain cancer. When he was ready to be social again things got back to normal, but I can tell that those things still weigh heavily on his mind and make him less communicative sometimes.

    2. Lanya*

      Yep, I was coming to write the same thing. Or something else major, like frozen/burst pipes this very cold winter season (which kept me from helping my brother with his resume for like a week and a half until I realized a week and a half had flown by…)

  11. Meow*

    If I was him I would be thinking, “I mentioned a job and ask her to follow up with me in January, and when she followed up with me in January she didn’t mention the job, so she must not be interested in it.” I agree with dialing back in general but think it is worth one more email you specify that you are interested in that job if it is still available.

    1. jag*

      Ditto. If he said follow up in January, then follow up in January.

      I deal with some very very business high-level people, and at least in the US, it’s super important to be clear and not evasive in what you tell them and ask them. They don’t have time to guess meaning or bring things up they asked/told you to bring up.

  12. Occasional commenter*

    On the topic of emails being ignored: I left a previous job a couple of years ago on what I thought was good terms. I started job hunting again, and tried asking a couple of senior people to see if they would be willing to serve as a reference (not the LinkedIn kind!). I never heard back. What’s the best way to approach this? I have since found other references, but it would be good to know if I had burned a bridge at that company somehow.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      What was your relationship with them like? Would you say you were fantastic at that job or more just kind of getting by? And what do you know about these people in general — are they conscientious normally?

      1. Occasional commenter*

        I had good performance evaluations, so I think I was doing well, objectively. I have stayed in touch periodically, albeit infrequently, and there have been times when emails get answered weeks later. I suppose that could be it. I just feel very self-conscious right now! Thanks Alison!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          And does this seem out of character for them? Or are they the types who don’t care much about being responsive, even to important things? (Sorry for all the questions.)

          1. Occasional commenter*

            Certainly when I was there, they seemed pretty responsive, but then the usual mode of communication was via IM. (and I appreciate the questions! It’s helping me think about it)

  13. Ditto*

    I just wanted to say thanks. I am going through a similar situation and perhaps I have gone a little too contact-heavy at times. To the person that wrote this comment in please know that you are not the only one in this situation.


    I really can’t believe these comments and answer given in response to OP. Why is the OP being labeled as pushy and being accused of going overboard. The mentor replied and indicated yes to the meeting. Her mentor has no excuse in why he or she has not responded. The mentor is being irresponsible plan and simple. It literally takes two minutes to write an email back saying they are busy. The mentor has no sense of respect and the OP should no longer contact her/him.

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