ed muses upon

2009/12/08

Staying Focused: Paying It Forward


If you were to see me at a networking event, I would strike you as a fairly sociable sort. When I attend networking events, I really get a charge out of meeting someone I don’t know…these days. The majority of such meetings are larger groups than I prefer, but I tend to do fairly well with them.

The funny thing about all of this is that even a few years ago, I would have described myself as shy and afraid of public speaking.

Shyness isn’t exactly uncommon, and fear of public speaking might with some justice be said to be a pandemic: according to WebMD, public speaking is the single most common fear in the US.

Now, reading this column will not make you a better public speaker—although this link might be helpful in getting you through it. Instead, I want to share with you a technique that gets me over my own anxiety.

And it’s very simple: by paying it forward.

That might sound glib, but it’s honest…and true. It’s taken a while to understand this, but I realized that yes: I do have something worthwhile to add to a conversation going on around me. And so do you.

What changed for me was entering conversations with the honestly and sincerely-held intention of trying to help someone overcome whatever challenge he or she was facing. While it’s true that this isn’t always an objective that can be realized, in the vast majority of cases, it can be. We all know other people who are employed, and we might even know hiring managers who have a need but don’t know of suitable candidates. We can certainly all add value to someone else’s job search.

And let’s not pussy foot around the fact that job search can be exceptionally discouraging. For my part, I spent the first six months of my own job search not getting anything more than an automated “thank you” for applying for a job. I didn’t get so much as a single “we’re going another direction, thank you” response in that entire time—never mind an interview.

When I can genuinely help a fellow job seeker, that’s positively huge! There is such a dearth of interaction in applying for jobs—it can be incredibly discouraging. Being able to be helpful to someone gives you a measure of control you might have difficulty finding otherwise. Indeed, if I am able to help someone else in their search, I consider it a pretty big win.

Knowing that you were able to help someone else in their job search is a great feeling. I cannot state this strongly enough: helping a fellow job seeker is incredibly valuable.

It is valuable, neither because it gives you a sense of accomplishment—although it certainly does that—nor because that person might then be inclined to help you, although that too might also be true. It isn’t even that positioning other people to help you by helping them land a new job is good, even though this too may be true.

No, it is incredibly valuable because it empowers us. Without that, it would be all too easy to curl up in a corner and not emerge for days at a time.

At the end of the day: paying it forward helps you stay focused on the big picture: landing your next jobs.

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4 Comments »

  1. I completely agree with you and believe in your message!

    Good luck to you!

    Comment by Felice Lam — 2010/03/02 @ 1:22 am

    • Thanks for commenting, Felice, and to you, too!

      Comment by edmusesupon — 2010/03/02 @ 2:05 am

  2. Great words and i will try to remember this the next time I give a speech – thanks

    Comment by Sharon — 2010/03/08 @ 9:23 pm

    • Thanks so much, Sharon! Just remember: you have something of value to share, and your audience deserves to hear it!

      Comment by edmusesupon — 2010/03/08 @ 9:32 pm


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