Why You Should Pay It Forward During Your Job Search

Mar 23, 2021 | Job Search Strategy

Pay It Forward in Your Job Search

It feels good to pay it forward, and it turns out it’s a solid job search strategy too. Here’s how to apply the pay-it-forward principle to your professional network. 

By: Ashley Dolar | Contributor for Let’s Eat, Grandma

As businesses begin to reopen this spring, the U.S. unemployment rate is still above 6 percent, which is significantly higher than before the pandemic. While those numbers are certainly encouraging, there’s a catch.

When you factor in people who would like a job but haven’t looked for one in the past month, as well as the workers who are underemployed, the data suggests that the real unemployment rate is closer to 11 percent.

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With so many people looking for jobs, it might be time to try a new tactic. Something to help you stand out from the crowd. Something different. Something that genuinely helps your fellow human.

Yes, it’s time to pay it forward.

The Power of Pay It Forward in Your Job Search

Photo by Robert Penaloza on Unsplash

Just like you can pay it forward in the drive-thru, you can pay it forward in your professional network. Photo by Robert Penaloza on Unsplash.

Do you remember that story about the man who paid for the car behind him in a Dairy Queen drive-thru? That small act of kindness resulted in more than 900 cars participating in his pay-it-forward chain over the course of two days.

You have the power to do something similar in your job search, but it only works if you pay it forward without expecting anything in return. Let me explain.

If you attend a virtual networking event with the sole intent to exchange email addresses with strangers, then you are probably not going to get very far. It’s like wearing a big cardboard sign that says “Please give me a job.” However, if you go to the meet-up with the mindset of helping other individuals, you will start to create a network of people who also want to help you.

This is not as easy as paying for someone’s ice cream cone. Networking takes effort and genuine goodwill. It’s a constant back-and-forth exchange of ideas and information as you build a relationship, and research says that it’s relationships that land jobs.

In fact, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking. One way to build those connections is by doing good deeds for others, not by asking for favors.

It’s a true two birds/one stone situation. While you are putting genuine kindness into the world, you are also raising your visibility in the job market.

So, how can you put this new mindset into practice? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Simple Ways to Pay It Forward

Write a LinkedIn recommendation

I truly believe that a LinkedIn recommendation is the easiest way to pay it forward in a professional setting. First, choose a colleague that you think deserves a shoutout. Then, explain your relationship to this person and write up a few sentences praising their work. (Be sure to mention specific examples of a particular quality, not just general praise for their work ethic.)

This is a win-win. It increases their credibility by having another professional vouch for their strengths, and it highlights your personal brand by showing that you are professionally active and engaged. Read an easy, in-depth guide to writing a great LinkedIn recommendation here.

Make an introduction

If you are actively looking for jobs on LinkedIn, a recruiter is bound to reach out to you. What if a recruiter contacts you about a position that you can tell right away isn’t a good fit, but you know someone who seems perfect for the position? Go ahead and pass along your colleague’s name! The recruiter will appreciate the lead, and your contact will be grateful for the connection. Chances are that your act of kindness will come back to you.

Share meaningful articles on social media

Photo by Meghan Schiereck on Unsplash

It never hurts to send a contact a “Congratulations!” Photo by Meghan Schiereck on Unsplash.

One caveat here: The articles need to be both meaningful to you and professional. For example, sharing an article about marketing trends for 2021 fits the bill; an article about cats wearing hats does not work for these circumstances. By putting your stamp of approval on a helpful article, you are showing your interest in advancing the industry and that you are engaged with your network. It might even give a fellow professional some much needed inspiration for the day.

Congratulate others on their successes

Did someone in your network just get a promotion or graduate with a shiny new degree? Be sure to extend a personalized (not auto-generated) congratulations! You can write it on LinkedIn or through email, depending on your situation. It shows that you care about their professional and personal milestones. Easy-peasy.

Volunteer within your community

This is the truest form of paying it forward. By giving back in a tangible way, you gain the kinds of skills, experience, and empathy that will serve you throughout your lifetime. You also are inadvertently expanding your network and building meaningful relationships that can lead to wonderful opportunities in the future. For example, if you choose to coach a youth sports team or volunteer with a local food bank, you will connect with people who might play a powerful role in your future job prospects. Obviously, networking isn’t the main reason that you should volunteer, but it has the potential to open doors in unexpected ways.

Paying it forward is about helping people for the sake of it. I just happen to believe that it can make a difference in your job search, too. So, get out there and spread a little kindness. I bet it will come back to you in spades.

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