Giving Back Professionally
12:30 pm, November 21st | by Beth Devin, Manilla.com
It’s that time of year, when giving thanks and giving back is top of mind. There are numerous articles out there about the power of karma and gratitude and their relationship to happiness. While I am a firm believer in the “pay it forward” philosophy, I find I am more proactive about giving back and helping others in my personal life than when I am at work. In this post, I’ll look at a few actions we can all take to
fuel the “what goes around comes around” circle of gratitude in our professional lives.
A personal thank you: Every day, there are so many opportunities to let people know that you appreciate what they do. It might be something small, such as a following up on an assignment, replying quickly to a question, or getting a task done before you’re asked to do so. Whether small or big, it’s easy to give thanks. It’s always best when you can do it in person, but a quick email or text works, too. I recall when a manager wrote me a card thanking me for successfully completing a project. It meant so much to me that she had taken the time to handwrite a note that I still have the card today. So the next opportunity you get, thank someone. She’ll feel better — and so will you!
Take someone under your wing: The benefits of mentoring or professionally coaching a subordinate are multifold: You’re helping someone who may be just breaking out into your industry, and you may learn a thing or two about your own set of skills. And while there are a variety of formal career mentoring programs both in and out of the workplace, sometimes the most powerful influencers and guides are the people you work with. Is there someone in your workplace who could benefit from your experience and expertise? Look around. That person doesn’t have to work for you or even be in your organization or team. Reach out and take someone to coffee or lunch. Probe to learn about that person’s career journey and aspirations, and don’t be afraid to offer counsel and advice. Make yourself available when new questions and challenges surface. Just this small amount of time and attention to someone early in her career can have such a positive impact.
A LinkedIn recommendation: How many times have you received a request to write someone a
LinkedIn recommendation? Have you ever been proactive and written a recommendation without being asked? When I left my last job I made a point of writing a recommendation for every one of my direct reports. The impressions of each person were fresh in my mind and the recommendations came easily. In the end it just felt like the right thing to do. Who have you worked with recently that deserves your recommendation?
Provide direct and honest feedback: Sometimes the biggest favor you can do for a colleague or
employee is tell her what she is not doing well or where she needs to improve. No one looks forward to this type of feedback — it can be a difficult discussion, but when it’s done well, it can be incredibly productive and impactful. Recently, I ran into a man who I had worked with many years ago. He shared with me that he still remembered a conversation we had had where I have given him some tough feedback that he took to heart. It was not life-altering advice, but he did do some homework in this area and worked to strengthen his skills. I was touched that he remembered the conversation at all and even more so that I’d make a difference.
Make an introduction: Do you know anyone in the job market? Is there someone trying to launch a business? Do you have a friend or colleague who you think would benefit from meeting someone you know? Our networks are professional assets, and they need to be nurtured and protected. At the same time, they should be leveraged when you can help someone that you trust and respect. It’s even more powerful when you can do so proactively. Recently, a colleague of mine started a job search. He is a CFO/Controller, which is certainly not my wheelhouse. But after spending 15 minutes searching through my network database, I was surprised by how many people I knew who were finance and accounting professionals. I was able to make three useful introductions and was happy to do so. I’m not sure if any of the three will result in a job, but making the connection is a great first step.
Take a risk: If you are in a position to do, give someone an opportunity that is a step (or two) above her current level and experience. For example, let an individual contributor lead a small project, ask an assistant to plan a company event, give a customer research assignment to a new product manager, or offer a young employee the chance to speak at conference. It’s amazing how people can stretch and grow when they get out of their comfort zone. Take a chance on someone and more often than not, you will be rewarded by how people rise to the occasion.
Volunteer: There are many opportunities to help others professionally by volunteering your time and skills. You could represent your company at a university job fair, teach a class, sit on an advisory board for a young company, or host a Meetup one evening at your office location. In the technology field, there is a non-profit organization called Tech Soup, which brings people with technology skills or equipment together to aid in positive social change. This is certainly the ultimate give-back, where your professional life interconnects with the personal beliefs values. Check out what is available in your local community.
Got a tip on how to give thanks in your professional life? Let us know in the comments below.
Beth Devin is the chief technology officer of Manilla.com, a free, award-winning service that helps
consumers manage all of their bills and accounts in one place online and via mobile apps. For more career tips and advice, visit the Manilla Blog.