Paying It Forward: The Benefits of Helping Others During Your Job Search

July 16, 2009 at 4:36 pm Leave a comment

christina_thumbJobseeking can be a lonely, self-centered process.  People often sit alone day after day, slogging through job boards, online applications and career fairs where the continual refrain is “apply through our site.”  It’s easy to start to feel like they are constantly asking favors of friends and friends-of-friends to connect them to organizations who may or may not be hiring. Highly-qualified candidates begin to question whether they do indeed have much to offer since rejection, or even worse silence, seems to indicate otherwise.  If you fall into this category, please remember that it is an extremely challenging time to be looking for a job – be it green or otherwise!

Amidst all the statistics about skyrocketing unemployment and mass layoffs, the story that is often missing is the psychological toll brought on by a prolonged job search in a bad economy.  Jobseekers feel powerless, that their skills aren’t valued, and that their voices aren’t being heard.  As a career coach at Bright Green Talent, I have seen this time and again with the most impressive people you can imagine.

One of the most important messages I try to convey is this: Just as critical to a successful job search as resume polishing, cover letter writing and networking is finding ways to empower yourself.

The best way to do this can sometimes seem counter intuitive but is tried and true — helping others.  Rather than asking all of your contacts for connections, help another jobseeker find career opportunities.  Join a mentoring network through your alumni association or nonprofits groups such as Upwardly Global.  Find a volunteer project where you can contribute your unique skills to help an organization grow.  Join Net Impact and take on a leadership role in your local chapter.

I should emphasize that this is not an argument for creating good karma.  It is because the simple act of helping in and of itself is a way to move yourself in the right direction – from helpless to helper.  This action has a variety of benefits that have been studied at length within positive psychology but when it comes down to it, we feel better about ourselves when we help other people.  If you are a jobseeker, it is critical to understand that this will not only help you cope after long days of seemingly wasted time, but will also keep you articulate and sharp for when you get a chance to ‘pitch yourself’ in an interview or networking event.

For our own part at Bright Green Talent, we’re always trying to find ways to help our social and environmental impact reach around the world to the places where it’s needed most.  We recently launched a campaign in which, for every 50 resumes that are registered with us, we’ll sponsor the education of a child in Madagascar for one year.  Yes, having more resumes on hand helps us place people into meaningful careers with environmentally-minded organizations more quickly — recruiting is, to some extent, simply a matter of being able to find the right people at the right time.

Beyond that, we believe this campaign plays into the concept of empowering jobseekers to feel that they’re part of a larger movement of good work. Education – both about environmental issues and to promote economic security and development – is key to promoting stewardship of the world’s natural resources. Spreading education and opportunity to others, is one of the most important tasks we can take on whether employed or not.

So if you are a jobseeker, find ways to pay it forward.  Your actions are more powerful than you can ever know both for the receiver and for yourself!

Christina Gilyutin, Bright Green Talent’s Director of Development and Chief Career Counselor, attended Stanford University before heading over to the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute of Global Sustainable Enterprise, where she earned a joint MBA/MS in Natural Resources and Environment.

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