By Peter A. Gudmundsson
Job searching is such a lonely activity that it becomes tempting to ignore the needs of others. The seemingly wasted effort and accumulated rejections of your own search can drive you to reclusive behavior.
Yet it is by helping others that job seekers can realize tangible and intangible benefits for their own searches. Each advantage gained ultimately will contribute to the successful start of the next career chapter.
Networking is the key tactic in any job search.
Developing this social capital requires mutuality. People who brazenly seek to take but rarely give will eventually find themselves exhausting their networks much as an irresponsible farmer may deplete his soil. Conversely, by focusing effort on the needs of others, the mutual bonds of professional and personal social interaction will grow.
Building Your Network
Helping others with their searches builds a personal network in many ways. First, the job seeker doing the helping will often rediscover members of her own network in the process. It is common for the helping job seeker to recall more contacts by thinking through someone else’s problem than she can for herself: “Oh, if you want to meet people in consumer marketing at a Fortune 500 company in Dallas, you should meet with X, Y and Z.”
Likewise, many job seekers are more comfortable reaching out for altruistic purposes than they are for selfish ones. “Please meet my friend Becky, who is a great senior accountant” is much easier to ask than “Please meet with me because I need a job.”
By introducing good candidates to other professionals, one may develop a reputation as a well-connected and resourceful contact or future employee.
Clarifying Personal and Professional Goals
Clear goals are critical but usually absent in most job searches. Candidates often confuse vague statements like “I seek a good job that will pay me what I am worth” with laser-focused but flexible elevator pitches.
When one meets with other job seekers, it becomes apparent just how unhelpful and frustrating unclear or general targets can be. If a job seeker spends time networking with other candidates and helping them with their needs, he may realize how else he can define his own needs by hearing descriptions of positions, skill sets or ambitions that resonate in either a positive or negative way.
A sense of gratitude is the foundational feeling for happiness. In an emotionally taxing job search, it is especially valuable. Conversely, a dispirited lack of personal agency can derail any job search with dark thoughts of despair.
Helping other job seekers will inspire the first seeker with tales of resilience but also remind him how much he has going for him. It is a sad fact of the human condition that someone else always has it worse. As such, you might leave a meeting with another job candidate with a sense of relief or gratitude about your own more favorable circumstances. From time to time, this healthy sense of perspective can help get a job search back on track.
One of the most damaging psychological and spiritual effects of the career-transition journey is the feeling of uselessness that attends the experience. At dark moments, the job seeker may be tempted to conclude that there is little reason to get out of bed for a day of rejection and disappointment.
When another job seeker is relying on you for support, advice and access, however, it can provide a welcome sense of purpose. Along with this sentiment comes a critically helpful reminder that, while you may be out of work now, you were once and will soon again be a competent professional contributor whom the right organization would be lucky to have on staff. This feeling of personal utility is invaluable.
Pay It Forward Payback
It may be an act of karmic faith, but many believe that doing good things for others will result in favorable circumstances returning to the originator. This is difficult to prove conclusively, but the tangible benefits are enough to prove the wisdom of dedicating time to others’ job searches.
Job searching is a lonely road. It can be shortened and made more fun and effective by helping others along the way.