Pay It Forward – How job hunters can make a difference


If you’ve not already seen it, then do buy or hire a copy of “Pay it Forward” on DVD and watch it. It’s based on a novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde of the same name.
Wikipedia explains the “pay it forward” concept as one 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. More specifically, the creditor offers the debtor 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.”
That’s perhaps a bit formal for our needs, but you get the idea. I’ve written about this before, and mentioned it in my e-book “The Senior Executive’s Emergency Job Hunt”. The other day, I was asked for some ideas on how to “pay it forward” as part of the networking process leading to a new executive role.
It’s an interesting question. ‘Paying it forwards’ becomes an important step in helping a group of people move from merely ‘knowing’ you, to ‘liking’ and ‘trusting’ you. Other people explain that the essence of networking is ‘giving to others’ not necessarily expecting a direct reciprocation. Of course, the more people who are able and prepared to give, so the more likely it is that you will receive. But in a job hunting (and networking) context the act of giving alone has a benefit for the impression that it gives to others.
So what kinds of things could you ‘give’ as a job hunter?
  • A book as a gift…
    When you meet someone for a one-to-one, take a relevant but not SO common, book with you. One that you’ve read and found useful and ideally is fairly recent. Put a note in the front cover to explain why you found it helpful and sign it. Towards the end of the meeting, ask if the individual has read the book, and if not give it to them, explaining that you believe in paying it forward, and would like them to read the book if they feel inclined and then pass it on to someone else they feel might like it. There’s something more substantial in using a REAL book. The act of writing in the cover serves loads of purposes. [My thanks to Richard Pantlin for making me think of this one.]
  • Information forwarding
    This can take several forms, but the key is to be seen as someone who gives out good information. You can do it simply or in more substantial ways. You can glean snippets using Google Alerts or you can proactively browse. You can write synopses of the latest books in your field. You can ‘publish’ a newsletter and distribute it using MailChimp. You can use the ‘’ site to create something more substantial. There’s lots of possibilities. Make sure that it is relevant to your particular niche AND to the people you are sharing it with. You also need to make sure that this gets seen by the people you are hoping to influence.
  • Set up a networking group of your own
    Four years ago, I decided I wanted to network more locally. So, I set up a networking group on “” and invited local members to join me for a drink every month. We meet every month in a pub and have a drink and a chat about all kinds of things. You would be amazed at the amount of business and job opportunities that have passed back and forth among the participants. Over time, I’ve increased the membership by inviting others to come along. You could do the same using your LinkedIn contacts as a starting point. If you don’t like the idea of a pub, pick a hotel. I preferred the evening, but you could do any time of day. Try looking at “business-biscotti” too as they provide admin tools and a brand for you to use to promote your group.
  • Organise a special event
    We’re in tough times, and just as you are struggling to find a new role, so are many people like you. Again, using your LI network as a starter, why not organise a day (or a half day if that works better for you) where those folks who turn up can have a go at helping each other? Get everyone to bring their CV or have their LI profile accessible, and arrange them in triads to critique each other’s. Ask a facilitator in your network to help. Or if there’s a trainer among them, ask them if they’d run a session on something useful (networking skills is always popular, though interview technique, CV writing, and self-promotion also work well). Keep the budget REALLY low – you can usually get a room somewhere for a few quid if you provide your own tea and coffee, ask participants to bring a mug if necessary. It’s a bit of a wartime mentality, but you’ll be a local hero for doing it! [Thanks to Jon Harvey and Marion Cole for their coaches workshop in Maids Moreton.]
  • Contribute to Groups and Forums
    Be systematic and strategic. Find one or two forums (probably on LinkedIn) which people in your sector or area of expertise frequent. Then start discussion threads and prompt the discussion. Make sure to ‘like’ as many comments as you can. Start them every few days and watch carefully to discover which are popular and why. Respond to other people’s questions and especially remember to be positive where you can.
  • Create a twitter ‘circle’
    Join with a small group of peers and set up a twitter circle using to promote each others blogs. Not only do you help your followers to access material they might find useful, but you are doing the other bloggers a favour too by promoting their messages.
  • Help out for a day
    Why not give up a day (or more) to help a local organisation especially a charity or small enterprise? The other volunteers may well be good ambassadors for you, but you’ll also get the satisfaction of doing something worthwhile and a different mental space in which to process ideas and thoughts. This is particularly good if you have skills that you’d like to use but don’t get any opportunity to do so. What about volunteering to help set up a social media campaign, to plan a new room layout, design new materials, review their procurement processes or renegotiate their supplier contracts? Whatever you are seeking to do for pay, you can probably volunteer somewhere. There’s bound to be a bit of hesitation on their part, but persist and you might be surprised what can come of it. Apart from charities, there are also local small business centres, employment organisations, student entrepreneurship programmes and so on. You might even find that you enjoy it so much that you want to continue to do this once you’ve found a new role yourself.
OK – that’s my quick starter for ten. How about letting us have your ways of paying it forward?
Best wishes

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.