How/if best to stay connected with a (male) potential boss/client after odd comment...

Hello all,

First time posting here - any advice/thoughts would be very welcome.

I went through a long, long hiring process for a dream role, where, from the beginning, it was acknowledged by the hiring manager that I was possibly over-qualified for the role. As I have freelancing/advisory gigs on the side, I was willing to take the more junior title/slight pay drop of an Associate role, when the project (set up a new investment fund from scratch), would help me gain exciting experience (I have ambitions of setting up my own fund one day).

I made it to the final round of two candidates, after spending a lot of time bonding with the team, prepping presentations etc etc. Sadly, they decided to go with the other, internal, candidate who already had the stakeholder relationships needed to move the project forward in the short-term. The hiring manager asked me to stay in touch as they saw a role of my level opening up in the future as well as a possibility to consult for them in the interim.

The hiring manager is male and made a comment along the lines of.. "please let's keep in touch, but, of course, only professionally." Up until then, the thought hadn't crossed my mind that there wasn't anyway our relationship wasn't a professional one, but now I am second-guessing myself of how to keep this relationship warm, and whether I should or not?

I think he may not have wanted to put you off or creep you out and was trying to be polite by staying "of course, only professionally" and unfortunately, it did the opposite. I wouldn't read into this and let it go. Just continue to follow up periodically and restate your interest in why working for that specific company greatly interests you.
It's a bit odd to say that and I totally validate your doubts. I would agree with Dana though that I'd give him the benefit of the doubt especially as he has been fine all along? Has the interaction ever felt off? Assuming all has gone well up until now, I'd stay in touch as you don't know what business can come out of that. Lastly remember that people come and go, so it's more important you keep your eyes on the firm vs this hiring manager :)
I'd give him the benefit of the doubt. I think he was trying to communicate clearly that he was interested in you in a professional capacity.
I have had multiple bad experiences with men in workplaces in the past, so I am always skeptical. Nevertheless, in this situation there are a few things you can do to keep the relationship warm while keeping yourself safe. 1/ keep your interactions professional in nature, online and on a public forum such as LinkedIn. It could be you forwarding or tagging him on articles of mutual professional interest. 2/ watch out for any attempts to get you into a private conversation with him online or in person. And avoid it tactfully. Or ask if you can invite a friend who might benefit from whatever professional convo you both might have. There may be other strategies you can come up with. This is a skill we all must learn cos the world does have predators. Having these skills will help us not be driven out of the field by the few. Hope this helps.
I agree with the others that he was trying to be professional and not give you the ick vibe that he was hitting on you. You could stay connected (LinkedIn is great for that) and you can always change the relationship if you find out he's a creep.
Hi Kate, from your post I'm reading that what he said and probably also how he said it felt off for you and I think it's so important to recognise and acknowledge that, so it's amazing that you posted this here and are seeking out for support! Now, for me when I have this sensation of "something is off", it either means two things: 1) it's the first sign that this isn't for me, it's not in alignment with me or 2) it actually is pointing at something that I haven't looked at within me and this is an opportunity for me to grow. For me how I respond then depends on whether it's the first or the second. In the first case, I'd probably set a boundary, whether that is letting go of the job opportunity - because there are plenty of other opportunities for you out there! - or actually voicing out the discomfort that I felt towards this person in a non-violent way. In the second case, I'd have a look at what was triggered within me exactly, where I have felt this in other scenarios and what the deeper desire is underneath it all. Now, this is more subjective, so it might make less sense how I write it. Let me know if this needs clarification and what kind. I hope this makes sense. Sending you loads of love and you've got this!
Hi @KatePresc - I hear that this comment brought up some weird feelings in you. As a coach, I always have more questions if you're open to them 😇I am curious how did this comment make you feel (what words would describe your feeling AND where did you feel the reaction in your body)? Also curious what your intuition says straight away about whether or not you should continue this relationship?I believe the "how" can come after you have checked in with yourself and have some clarity over how it makes you feel...
I feel you and the worst with those kind of comments is the time you spend trying to understand what he had in mind when saying it. My approach would be: don't try to guess what he meant, just bluntly ask him: "hey, I'm not sure I understand what you meant by "of course only professionally", could you clarify, have I been unprofessional or have you been uncomfortable during our exchanges?" And let him explain what he had in mind. Because now you're the one left overthinking about it, not fair, let him explain what he meant :) less tiring than trying to guess!
A short update since - Thank you for your advice, it helped me stop overthinking and to act instead.Since I posted, a new role with the co came up which gave me a "strictly professional" reason to reach out, and he came through. He helped out by giving feedback and making sure the hiring manager got sight of my application. Our relationship became a bit more human as well, talking about our partners/life/the industry in general, and his project, so even if the role doesn't work out, I do feel like I've made a valuable connection here.I'm so glad I didn't let this throw me, and I really appreciate the support from you all. Hunting for a new role can be dispiriting at times and communities like this help so much.