More than 20 years ago, when I launched Reimer Associates and entered into the recruiting world, I was convinced that my personal contact list and network would be the backbone to business success. There is no question it was very helpful, and along with a keen interest in the recruiting business, gave me the impetus to start. But just a few weeks into my new venture I was surprised to learn something even more essential for long-term business success: Many people that I contacted regarding available positions went out of their way to refer suitable candidates to me. I don’t just mean answering with a quick email or phone call with a name or two. I mean getting back to me with multiple top-level contacts, often having made phone calls alerting them that I would likely be in touch. Not just making the connection, but paving the way to a possible successful placement.
This is not something I was counting on but it became and remains to this day a critical success factor in our business: The willingness of people to take valuable time out of their day and in a focused and very helpful way connect others for the purposes of a potential new role. As I look back, I see those people were intentionally “paying it forward” with the realization that the world just works better when we take time for these kinds of actions. What’s great about this? As it turns out, I have been able to assist some of the very people who helped me get started so many years ago. Maybe it really is the old saying of “What goes around comes around”?
In the same vein, I have a very good friend who practices law at a high level in downtown Toronto. Many people assume his life is simply too busy to deal with anything but the most important cases. On the contrary, he has made a point throughout his career to take a significant portion of his work on a pro bono basis and has helped all kinds of people without the funds to pay him anything. Additionally he constantly makes time for prospective law students who are curious about a career like his. He shares important advice, is willing to meet for coffee, and does his best to help them understand what a legal career can be like.
Several years ago my son was looking for a place to live while he attended school in Peterborough, Ontario. At the time I knew exactly one person in Peterborough and it happened to be through a work connection – not a person I knew well and certainly not someone who “owed” us anything. Still, I figured a phone call couldn’t hurt. Well, after a brief conversation my business contact agreed not only to give us advice, but he also devoted his entire day to showing us around town, taking us for lunch, and leading us to a number of potential apartments. In the end, he was highly instrumental in our securing a great spot for my son to live. My contact had nothing to gain by helping us, but I’ve since come to learn that’s just the way he lives his life.
In my typical business day I usually deal with very experienced senior-level supply chain and transportation executives. That said, I’m occasionally approached by a young person with little or no experience in our field who is interested in the business as a potential career. I learned a few years ago that giving these people some time, and perhaps even meeting with them, can indeed help them make important career decisions. I hope my advice can steer them in the right direction. As it happens, this is a rewarding part of the job. We often keep in touch over the years, and in a couple of cases we have even helped them to find employment within our industry.
We are all extremely busy in our professional and personal lives and there’s no question that finding extra time can be a real challenge. But making an intentional decision to be helpful to people who come across your path can be one of the most gratifying parts of your day. Realize that you are in a unique position to be able to help someone move forward with their goals. I truly believe that paying it forward really does make the world a better place.