We all know how important networking is to your job search. Finding new ways to make valuable connections can open up many new possibilities, job leads and inside information that can give you an advantage over other job seekers. The problem is that when you are making these connections, you're asking people (whom you may not know very well) for their help. Most of the time, people genuinely want to help others, but if you are always asking for help and never giving it, you probably aren't going to get very far.
There are many ways that you can help others and increase your own "networking karma" in the process. Of course, I don't mean to imply that the only reason to be of service is so that you can get something back. Giving of your time and talents, even when you aren't expecting anything in return always gives you more than you started with. I know that it might sound corny, but love is a commodity that doesn't lessen the more you share it. Give it all away, and you'll find that your stores never become depleted.
Even if you don't think that you have much to offer and even less to give, there are plenty of ways that you can pay it forward - no matter your particular life situation. To help get you inspired, here are 10 ways to help others - and help yourself:
- Always introduce yourself and make others feel comfortable: It's tough to be the new person at the office or to attend a networking event solo. In these situations, having someone come up to you and introduce themselves can make a huge difference. Whenever you see someone in this awkward situation, be that person for them. Introduce yourself, make them feel comfortable and be interested in learning more about them.
- Write positive reviews online for businesses you like or patronize regularly: For small business owners, a good review on a site like Yelp! can make a huge difference to the overall success. All too often, we forget to write positive reviews for businesses that we like and visit on a regular basis. It is typically only when we have a horrible experience that we feel the need to write about it. You can help out the businesses you love by taking the time to write something positive about them letting others know how great they are.
- Volunteer with a cause you're passionate about: I write a lot about volunteering, and I still say that it's the hands-down best way to meet new people, build new skills and feel as though you're making a difference. Find a cause and donate your time and energy to helping, however you can. Volunteering doesn't have to take a huge amount of time. Even if you only have an hour or two to spare each week, there are opportunities for you to make a difference.
- Visit people you know are lonely: We all know someone who has been having a rough time. Even if you don't know them well, or they are a friend of a friend, take some time to visit with them. Sometimes a phone call, or bringing over some baked goods, can make a huge difference for them. When we're lonely, it's easy to feel like no one cares and that things will never get better. You may not be able to solve your friend's problems for them, but just letting them know that you're there for them and that it does get better can make a huge difference.
- Buy lemonade or treats from children's stands: Near the end of the summer, I walked past a group of kids who had set up a lemonade stand in their front yard. I was disappointed that I didn't have any cash on me, because not only did I want to support their entrepreneurial efforts, I was really thirsty. I stopped to talk to them, intending on at least giving them some encouragement and they completely blew me away. They handed me a glass of lemonade and said that the drinks were free. They informed me that they weren't actually selling lemonade, they just wanted to make people smile. I thanked them and one girl said to me, "Don't thank me. All I did was stir, you're the one who has to walk down the street. It's hot out!" The lemonade hit the spot, and their simple act of kindness made me feel good all day. So, if you ever see a group of kids running a lemonade stand or washing cars, stop and give them some support. Even if you can't afford to buy a drink or get your car washed, just giving them some praise can make them feel that their efforts are worthwhile.
- Give your time and attention to a child: If you know someone who has a child, a friend, a cousin - whatever - spend some time doing something nice for them or simply just talk with them. Not because you think that they are in need or that they have a tough life - do it because children can't have enough adults they can trust in their lives. If you don't know any children, there are always options to mentor a student. As a mentor, you basically commit to coming to the school and visiting with a certain student for an hour, once a week. It doesn't take much, but your life will be enriched by getting to know them.
- Be a courteous driver: If you have trouble with road rage or have a stressful commute, make a commitment to yourself to become a more courteous driver. Leave earlier and stop screaming and yelling at other drivers. Instead of trying to prevent someone from getting in front of you, (even when they are clearly in the wrong) slow down and let them in. Maybe they are terrible drivers, or just inconsiderate, but being a jerk (or even standing your ground) isn't going to make them see the error of their ways. All of the yelling and teeth gnashing about other drivers only serves to increase your stress level and make you arrive at your destination frustrated and angry. The funny thing about being courteous to other drivers is that even though they may never notice, it's not about them. The simple act of transforming your commute time into time that you are being mindful of others and trying to spread kindness can change your life.
- Send a card to someone you know: We all have casual friends and acquaintances with whom we don't get to spend much time. To brighten their day, send them a nice card or even a kind email. If you really want to "double down" on this, send a card to the people who are closest to you. Our best friends and loved ones do so much to make a difference in our lives, it seems a shame that they are often the last people we thank. So, pick out a person or two and send a card. If you make it a weekly habit, you'll see many things in your life change.
- Donate supplies to an animal shelter: Animal shelters always seem to be working with budgets that aren't nearly enough to cover their expenses. The people who work at them really love animals, but simply don't have the resources to do all that they would like to. Contact your local animal shelter to find out what supplies they need. Pet food is always a need, but sometimes they need things like newspapers and blankets as well.
- Stand up for someone: Growing up, I was a chubby kid who struggled a lot in gym class. We always had to run laps and I was never a good runner. Everyday, when it came time to run, I would resign myself to spending my time running at the back of the group, trailing far behind the others. I hated running and hated to be reminded of my shortcomings. One day, a girl I was friends with (who was also a strong runner) started running beside me. I knew that she was having to slow down considerably to do it, but with her running beside me, it didn't feel so bad. In fact, when she ran with me, I actually ran faster. She stood up for me and helped me feel better about myself. If you see someone who is being bullied or if your co-workers are gossiping about someone in your office, don't join in. Instead, say something genuine and kind about the person. Don't feed into that sort of behavior. You can even take it a step farther by standing up for people in society who are under fire, even if it's only in conversation.
There are so many ways that you can make a difference; find one and get started. It might not seem as though you are doing much, but the simple act of wanting to share love and kindness with other will give you more than you ever expected.
What do you do to help others? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Image source: MorgueFile