Monday, August 31, 2009



Whether you are in business, hoping to get back in or find yourself somewhere in between, you need to network. The rude awaking of a lost job has jolted many people to wake up one morning (or worse yet in the middle of the night) and say “I have to start networking.” The very next realization is they may have come to the game too late. You can help.

Many who know me have heard me profess building your network at all times. In this and all economies, you need contacts. Already have the job or never lost it? I bet you are getting requests to connect with people you only knew casually. Do they want to “have coffee” or “pick your brain?”

This is your time to shine. PAY IT FORWARD. A movie of the same name exists with this plot: A young boy attempts to make the world a better place after his teacher gives him that chance. Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt, 2000.

While I have not seen the movie (now I guess I should), I am a firm believe in the Wikipedia definition: The expression "pay it forward" is used to describe the concept of asking that a good turn be repaid by having it done to others instead. In contract law, typically there are two parties but there is the concept of third party beneficiaries. Pay it forward merely applies this contract law concept so that third party beneficiary be a stranger to the creditor (or obligee). More specifically, the creditor (obligee) offers the debtor (obligor) the option of "paying" the debt forward by lending it to a third person instead of paying it back to the original creditor. Debt and payments can be monetary or by good deeds. In sociology, this concept is called "generalized reciprocity" or "generalized exchange". A related transaction, which starts with a gift instead of a loan, is alternative giving.

How can you help? Connect with job seekers and be generous with your time. Offer to introduce them to someone in your network. Have them practice their 30 second commercial with you or simply review their resume or portfolio. Informational interviews also allow you to meet great people outside of the formal job search process.

I keep getting asked why I attend these 400-700 person networking events. How can they be good for business? Do I really meet people that are interested in my business or just those lost souls looking for a job?

Do the math. I attend an event and meet 25-50 people, many searching for a position. Waste of time, right? But, it is not a matter of IF the economy will pick up, but WHEN. And, even if just one quarter of these folks get jobs, who do you think they will remember? Will they remember the people who ignored them and refused to network or the kind folks who connected with them on LinkedIn and went out of their way to help?

So, how are you Paying It Forward this week? Reach out to one friend or past colleague. Invite them to a networking event or better yet, bring them as a guest to a business networking event. Forward articles of interest and possible contacts in their field and make sure they know of all the job seeker support events.

You will see benefits; not just immediately, but years from now. Pay It Forward for better contacts in the future. Please let me know how you are helping. Post your comments. And, feel free to send me someone you think I can help.

Rob Felber