February 25, 2011
Pay it forward: Offering no-strings-attached help expands your network
Special to NWjobs
A few months after he was laid off in 2008, Gary Barber began volunteering twice a month at the American Institute of Architects’ Seattle office, where he offered career support and advice to fellow unemployed architects.
Now starting a new venture — Urban Solutions Studio, an architectural design and planning firm — Barber admits that many of the people he helps could be competing with him for the same jobs.
Still, Barber says he is happy to volunteer. “I believe you get back what you put out, multiplied many times over,” he says, even if the payback isn’t immediately obvious or direct.
In a slow job market, it may seem counterintuitive to pass along job opportunities and build your network by doing favors for others. But paying it forward is exactly what some unemployed people and career advisers say is important now.
Give2Get: Network with the goal of helping others at this free event from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. March 8 at Bahama Breeze, 15700 Southcenter Parkway, Tukwila. For details and registration, visit biznik.com/events.
Pay It Forward Foundation: This organization logs inspirational anecdotes and news stories about goodwill gestures around the world. Visit payitforwardfoundation.org.
The concept was popularized in 2000 in a movie titled “Pay It Forward,” based on a novel of the same name by Catherine Ryan Hyde. The idea is to do a favor for someone without expectation of repayment in hopes that the person will do the same.
Sandy Jones-Kaminski, an online-marketing consultant and author of “I’m at a Networking Event — Now What???” applies the theory to networking at her Pay It Forward parties. At “PIF parties,” guests attend intent on helping others with professional support or personal advice.
Jones-Kaminski sees the networking events as community service — a way to give back as much as she can. She says successful PIF-goers skip the conventional elevator pitch and instead ask, “What are you working on these days?” The question allows the unemployed to save face (the reply may be “trying to find a job,” or “working on my degree”) and provides the listener with greater insight.
“Make it easy for other people to share with you,” Jones-Kaminski says. “Even if you don’t personally do the hiring at your company or know of a job, you can still help compel change and feel helpful.”
Teresa Springer, CEO of the marketing and multimedia production company Seeds of Love Productions, hosts a networking event held periodically at the Bahama Breeze restaurant in Tukwila.
At Give2Get, about 50 to 60 people — including real-estate agents, consultants, college students and entrepreneurs — discuss their needs and concerns, such as marketing dilemmas or customer-service challenge. Attendees can ask questions and offer advice and suggestions.
“One thing I impress upon everyone is that there’s more than enough [work] for everyone,” Springer says. “At our forum, people feel like they can ask and receive. Everyone can walk away inspired to help, because we all possess a wealth of knowledge. I love to share with other individuals and receive from them. It is a back and forth.”
Good deeds are like oxygen, says Seattle’s Bob Rosner, who writes for the career-advice website workplace911.org: Whether you’re inhaling or exhaling, you’re contributing overall. You should be prepared to give time, advice and attention on a regular basis, he says.
“If someone doesn’t stumble across your path, go out and find somebody,” he says. That could mean taking an employee to lunch or mentoring a recent graduate.
After all, he says, everyone has benefited at some point from help provided by educators, mentors or co-workers.
“We have a debt to repay,” Rosner says. “It takes constant thought and effort about how we’re going to pay it back.”
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