Job Search Series III: Pay It Forward (and Pay it Back)

“For it is in giving that we receive.”
St. Francis of Assisi

I believe in the power of giving, the power of volunteering, of giving until you have nothing left, giving until it hurts (as Mother Theresa said)…by giving, I feel true joy and connection. I lose myself into another soul, into whatever is we are made of, into the interconnectedness of it all. I feel fulfilled.

It is incredible how much comes back when you give: doors open everywhere, you meet extraordinary people and things start happening all around you…

Giving also means erasing your own loneliness, your own need for connection and meaning in life.

To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.”
~ Abraham Lincoln

Not just when you are looking for a job, but especially if you are a newcomer (to a country, town, career path, social group, etc.), giving is the best way to open doors to yourself and to other people’s hearts.

A lot of career/employment coaching books (and counsellors) talk about the importance of “networking” and “volunteering” as strategies to get to know the work environment, make career connections and expand your options.

However, giving can be deceiving and even dangerous to those in the receiving end, depending on how you give and why.

The type of paying forward (and paying back) I’m talking here is a bit different. While I do believe that only connecting to people you enhance your opportunities of almost anything you plan to do (from starting a community garden, creating an energy descent action plan social group, starting a social enterprise as your own business, looking for a new job or trying to change your career path)…I believe connections have to be honest and real, otherwise they will fade out soon and you’ll end up alone.

What do you do when you make a new connection? Do you ask, do all the talk and run the show? Do you collect their business card or their phone/email to never ever look them up again?

And what do you do when somebody gives you a hand, a name; connect you with somebody else, or with some new idea or project?

Do you make room for people in your life? Do you stop and say thanks and give back?

Do you think about what others really need and that the aim of your giving should be making yourself redundant?

People are like you and me. We think we are rational, but we are not. We tend to pay more attention (and want to help and stretch ourselves out of our comfort zone) when we like the other. And the decision to “like” somebody is made not by your head, but by your heart.

People sometimes asks where they should volunteer or where/with whom and when to network.

My answer is always the same:

  • Look for where they need you
  • Look for where you’ll enjoy giving
  • Look for where you will have an opportunity to learn and expand your horizons
  • Look for opportunities where your time and energy will have a stronger impact
  • Listen to people, care for people, be yourself and be the first to offer help in what they need
  • Look for lasting connections, not for empty social-media-like “friends” or one-time business-card-exchange
  • Respect people, they are also looking for something
  • Keep track of who you meet and where and follow up with them, keep connected
  • Strive for giving, making friends and enjoying the ride, not for what you’ll gain in return

A Note on types of “giving” and charity:

I volunteer at many organizations and for many causes. Most of them are grassroots initiatives, but some are connected to well-known institutions. I run or bike for fundraising, work extra hours maintaining their websites and blogs, spend hours preparing and distributing materials, run workshops, do presentations and meet with people outside my working hours. My own “paid job” is a job where giving is the main component.

But I hate “charity” and what it implies…and I am constantly checking with my own heart: “Am I giving because I need it, or because they need it?”

My own concept of giving is by empowering people: I like to start fires, to boost somebody’s morale, to develop tools so people can own them and develop them further; I don’t like “doing” things “for” people.

When you do “charitable” work, you are disempowering people, you are taking away their ability to do something for themselves and you are contributing to the cycle of scarcity they live in, and their sense of being “victims” and “powerless”.

I do believe in giving money to causes where I know who is behind them and what they do with the money…and money is required for things from logistics to buying resources, not necessarily to give the final product to those “in need”…

An excellent volunteer coordinator I had always said to us: “ask yourself why are you giving” “are you giving to feed your own need of being good or are you giving because you truly believe the receiver will benefit from your help?” “When giving, ask yourself what the receiver needs, not what you need”

In giving, there is a lot of vanity. Try to go beyond your own  vanity and see whether what you are doing is helping to end the “wrong” situation (poverty, crisis, unemployment, illness, loneliness, etc)…or whether you are doing it to feel needed by others and to feed the scarcity and need cycle the receivers are locked into.

And you pay forward; don’t forget to also pay back: if somebody gave you something of value (from a job tip to a listening ear), think what they may need…and give it to them.

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” ~ The Beatles

10 Comments on “Job Search Series III: Pay It Forward (and Pay it Back)

  1. Pingback: Job Search/Path Search ~ Not Rocket Science ~ But How It Hurts! | Silvia Di Blasio

  2. Wow, this message is so powerful! Why are we actually giving to others? Because we care about others and are trying to fulfill their own needs? or just because we love feeling needed by others and the way the look at us as the good and generous ones? This is such a controversial aspect of human nature itself. It’s hard to differentiate the blurry line between one and the other, and as you comment I don’t like the way of giving as experienced in charity. It looks to me as we have to stand up for what other people fail to accomplish, and since we have already accomplished that and more, we can back them up and fill their void. That has an intrinsic sense of underestimation for the own capacities and abilities of those others, and it irritates me a little. No offense intended, though money tends to make people just like that. People who have money think money can buy it all, fill it all, and fix it all, so they give money in an attempt to “cure their neighbours’ wounds”. The basis of charity is money, cause those who have more are assumed to have no real problems in life, so they can share some of that “grace” with those who lack it. It’s the way society perceives values and what is important and what is not. As you say repeatedly, this is an unfair world built upon unfair rules which praises things that are selfish-prone, and that’s reflected in the intention hidden behind something that at first glance may look as simple as giving to others.


    • My friend: you are right, and your comments prompted me to write a response in my other blog. As a career coach, if I write the resume for a client, I’m not helping the client: he may benefit once, but I am perpetuating his dependence on my services as he will need me every time he wants to apply to a new job. But if I dedicate time to him, listen to him and coach him to find who he is and what he is capable of, and then coach him through resume writing, I will become redundant and he will be for life empowered. That, for me, is true joy in giving (to observe others to reach their full potential while I may be reaching mine as well)…this concept can be translated to any type of giving: better to share your knowledge of how to grow food than to give money to the food bank; better to teach how to sew than giving out clothes, and so on…however, we also need to acknowledge that there are urgent needs for which we need to provide right away. True compassion and caring for others, for the environment, may require that we give in other ways: food banks and clothe drives are an emergency measure, a necessary transition and we need to be able to do both (build the world we want while caring for the world that is slowly dying)…for these things, giving money is sometimes essential. I am not against giving money per se, but against giving money as a way of buying heaven…
      In regards to the fine line, we may need to be easy on ourselves…that fine line may always be there because we are humans and not angels: there is always a bit of vanity when we give. There is always a bit of selfishness when we love: we want to be loved back. That is not bad in itself, what is bad is to give just to feel “good” or to love and feel then entitled to demand love back…


  3. Pingback: On Charity and Power ~ Ideologies, Revolution and Oppression | Living As If Others Really Mattered

  4. I give because we are to give to others…. I don’t expect anything back. I learned this a long time go. Don’t do for others if you expect, you will be disappointd. I try to keep balance in my life. I am no good to others if I do not live a balanced life:-), so I do what I can and learn to say no to somethings because there are just so many hours in a day. I do what I can and where I feel I am useful:-)


    • So true Robbie…we don’t give because we expect anything in return…we do receive back, but sometimes in strange ways: it may not come from the person we gave to…it may be from life…:)


      • I am so glad I found your blog, you are a wise woman! I love meeting people over the cyber fence:-) I have been meeting a lot of wise women lately+ you sure are a wise woman:-)
        It took me a long time to learn to not expect anything from others. I found it easier to just give. But you are so right about it comes back to you from different places. I always believed ” your reap what you sow” + ” what goes around comes around”…I always asked my family to have someone make me a sign for my kitchen that said “What goes around comes around” because I do believe you reap what you sow in life:-)


      • Not sure if I’m wise :), but I’m passionate about life, justice and Nature…my blog is a way to communicate those feelings to others like you and many more out there…I’m thankful for people like you and all the others who do the best they can to heal the world and embrace Nature…


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