In chapter 22 of It’s a Jungle in There, Steven Schussler points out that helping others, even when there is no direct benefit to you, is good practice…and very well may pay dividends in the future.
It is part of my nature to want to contribute to people and organizations whenever I see a way that I can add value. This is part of the reason that I’ve gotten involved in several boards of directors for organizations that I care about. A side benefit is that I get to connect with other people that care about things I’m passionate about and develop my own leadership experiences. Helping others can be both good for the soul, good for that person or organization, and also great for your resume.
The very heart of what I teach my students about networking is looking for ways that you can be helpful to someone else. So many people are intimidated by professional and personal networking because they perceive it as something focused more on asking for something for themselves. If they flip this around and instead think of these interactions as looking for ways to help them, the conversations get much easier.
As Larry James of NetworkingHQ states in the image above, this doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to leave your own goals at the door. It is perfectly okay to be strategic about who you connect with and be intentional about reaching out to those that may be in a position to help you in the future. This does not mean that you expect something in return for your help, but it is human nature that if someone has been helpful to you then you are much more likely to be helpful to them when they need it.
Building rapport with people and demonstrating your skills, values, passion, and work ethic is an ongoing opportunity. Doing a great job gets noticed. Showing what you can do and making someone else’s life easier leaves an impact. Isn’t that what every manager wants when they hire someone to work for them? Please, make my job easier and make me look good!
Think about the skills that are most in demand in your industry. Look at job descriptions for jobs you’d like to have and identify gaps you need to fill in. Develop those skills and look for ways to gain experience using them that can add value to someone else. Search for organizations where people you’d like to work for gather and look for ways to get involved. Building relationships by helping people that you share common goals and interests with is the best way to position yourself to connect with professionals that might one day be in a position to help you. Be thoughtful about the unique contribution you can make and where you’d like to make it to have the greatest impact.
One word of caution: It is easy to get carried away helping others and neglect your own goals. Think about what your capacity is and don’t over-commit. The last thing you want to do is make a promise that you are ultimately unable to keep or offer to help and produce something that isn’t your best effort. That can leave a lasting impression in the other direction, which is definitely not the outcome you’re going for.