My friend Mike has a brand new job. He’s heading up human resources for a successful firm in Atlanta. It wasn’t always this way, some years ago he took a top job in the Miami Metro area only to be re-organized out of the company less than a year later. He spent some time soul searching and building a network: things he hadn’t gotten to do while building his sterling executive career. He took time to get to know the needs of others. When he finally found a position, he had to relocate to Atlanta, but he had also acquired a new passion: networking. He realized that it is the key to staying on top of the job market, and even business opportunities. No one person can do it alone.
Mike’s passion to share endeared him to many recruiters who would send him job postings for his network. This grew into a LinkedIn group, and the postings kept flowing in. He kept sharing them with all of his colleagues and networks. Mike got involved in public speaking, local not-for-profits and churches, and even found other partners in his quest to make sure the word gets out and that the leads be shared. If you’re on Mike’s list, he asks you to ‘to pay it forward’, that is think of others who are in need, pass on the information, and keep them topmost in your mind even when you’re feeling low.
We all know that reaching out to others when we’re down is tough, a test of our commitment, and yet it almost always leads to feeling better, and realizing you have value because you have something to offer. It’s been talked about, and there have been some films, most recently “Cloud Atlas” plays on this theme, that we all need each other, that every good deed you do has an effect somewhere on someone. The movie also has other messages, but they key concept is trusting, offering something to someone else brings about a change.
Recently, we saw a story about Target where a customer had no money, and another customer offered to pay for their groceries. Others in line then offered to do the same for yet other people. Besides thinking cynically, “why can’t I be on that line?” consider how viral the paying it forward idea can be.
Mike’s new personal brand was social and community involvement, being sensitive to the needs of others. It brought him a whole new level of recognition and admiration which in turn opened up career opportunities. Before you start thinking it’s a fairytale, think about how you remember that good turn someone did for you, recommended you, or shared an opportunity. You don’t forget that person so easily, and you’ll quickly return the favor should there be a chance.
Building your personal brand by paying it forward is real; it’s opening yourself up to being generous whenever you can instead of always thinking what you’re going to get out of it. It’s gifting someone just because you feel like it, not for a reward but just because you want to. The action humanizes you and this is the core of a personal brand, since you’re not an inanimate logo or a product. It’s a way to demonstrate tangibly what your brand means. By the way, it does feel good, so there’s an intrinsic reward to paying it forward.