Grow Your Career by Paying it Forward
As an entrepreneur, I’m often asked for career advice from clients and friends. This can be as simple as listening to someone who’s struggling with a work task or diving in and helping a friend figure out the next step on their career path. While I give this advice freely, I recently had a friend ask why I’m so willing to help.
I help because I know I’ve gotten to where I am in my career as a result of the support of other women. Every leap I’ve made has been done with a friend, coach or colleague providing their sage wisdom and emotional encouragement.
My gratitude for the guidance I’ve received motivates me to continue paying it forward.
While the time I give does take away from my paid work, I firmly believe it also helps me grow as a person and professional. It is an investment worth making.
When I get a call from someone looking to make a change in their career, it makes me hit pause and reflect on my path. In every conversation, there are a few questions I ask.
- What are your core values in relation to how you want to be treated and how you aspire to treat others?
- Think about what sparks your passion?
- What dims your passion?
- Tell me about a project you loved. What about the project and people you worked with brought you joy?
- Now tell me about a project you dreaded. What sucked your energy?
Here’s the thing about giving advice. It makes you look within.
As I ask these questions, it causes me to reflect on my own journey. Am I still following my passion or have I been taken off course? If I’m off course, why? What do I need to do to course correct?
After one conversation with a friend about what sparks her joy, I received an email from a client asking me to bid on a project. While the project had a healthy budget attached, I thought about what sparks my passion. It didn’t take long to realize nothing in this project would spark my passion.
Being true to the advice I had just given a friend about how a paycheque can’t be your main motivation, I turned down the opportunity to bid on the project. Sure, the money would have been good. But by saying yes to something I didn’t enjoy would not leave room in my schedule to say yes to a project that sparked my energy.
Saying yes would also not be respectful of my client. They deserve to work with someone who is excited about the project, bringing their best self to the task.
Throughout my career, I have always valued the relationships I’ve made. These relationships make projects seem less like work and more enjoyable collaborations.
By taking the time to mentor or advise others, I am strengthening relationships with women I value and respect. I do this with no motivation other than widening my circle of dynamic women.
But here’s the thing. Many of these relationships have helped me in my own career journey.
It’s not uncommon for me to reach out to women I have mentored looking for advice or insights on my own career. And with the trust established, I also have a network of women I can confide in, vent and troubleshoot challenges.
Working as a paid coach, the free mentoring or advice I give to those within my circle only strengthens the guidance I can give to my paid clients. I’m able to draw upon experiences that are not my own – which is important as we need to see beyond our own struggles.
I am also able to reassure my coaching clients that they aren’t alone in their challenges. This, in of itself, can help people navigate the road ahead.
And finally, I am able to provide guidance with authenticity. Having helped others with no expectations of personal gain.
As you read this article, I’m not saying you need to hang up a sign for all to come. Rather, when someone talks to you about a career obstacle or change, don’t think about all the work on your plate, but rather hit pause and lean into the conversation.
Give the conversation the space it needs (and yes, that may mean scheduling it for a later time). Look at how you can add value, without any expectation of personal payback. Then be open to the payback you will receive in ways you least expect.
I promise, the gift of helping others will be paid back to you tenfold.
Want more career advice? Download my e-book How to Grow Your Career on Your Own Terms.