Tag Archives: Pay it Forward

A story of paying it forward

salvation armyRecently I stood in the cold, relentless air in front of Market Basket in Lowell ringing bells for the Salvation Army. It was a great feeling seeing customers, who probably didn’t have a lot of money to spend, stuffing a dollar or whatever change they could manage into the slot atop the red bucket.

All the while my feet and fingers were freezing, but that didn’t matter because the spirit of Christmas was in the air. I started ringing the bells at 9:00 am and business didn’t start picking up until 10:00 am. I didn’t start feeling my feet until 11:00 am, the end of my shift.

I have one person to thank for giving me the opportunity to ring the bells for the Salvation Army, a person who personifies “paying it forward,” Kevin Willett.

I talk about the concept “paying it forward” in a career networking workshop and there seems to be some confusion among the crowd, so to simplify the concept I tell my attendees that the act of helping others creates good Karma. Further I tell them they should not expect the person you help to immediately repay the favor, because another person will step forward to help you. In fact, you may never receive reciprocation from the person you assisted.

Kevin who is the founder of Friends of Kevin, a business networking group, embraces the term “paying it forward” every Christmas season when he gathers his army of friends to ring the bells. When I asked him why he volunteers endless hours to organize this event and ring the bells himself, he told me he was once a recipient of the Salvation Army’s aid to people in need.

Kevin’s generosity extends beyond ringing the bells. His networking group not only helps businesses network, a few jobseekers are allowed to attend the meetings and deliver their elevator speeches. The goal is to expose jobseekers to business people who might have jobs to offer or know of companies that do. Kevin is a connector in the truest sense—he connects people to charities, and he connects business people to jobseekers.

Kevin spoke last year at our urban career center to a sold-out group of jobseekers eager to learn how to network. His presentation was a hit, and he made it clear that networking is a two-way street; you help someone and get help in return.

There are no hard statistics on how successful paying it forward is. Smart jobseekers simply understand that it makes common sense. It makes common sense because as you’re helping someone, another person is in the process of helping you. I’m convinced that the jobseekers who believe in paying it forward will receive the help they need. How do I know? Just ask Kevin Willett.


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Pay it Forward are not just words. Two people put them into action

You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.   ~  John Wooden

The term “pay it forward” is unfathomable to some jobseekers. They way they see it is they’re the ones who are out of work and; therefore, they should be the ones receiving help, not others. This way of thinking is what holds them back from networking or reaching out to do a good deed, which in turn hurts their chances of finding a job.

The majority of jobseekers I run into understand the beauty of paying it forward. They embrace helping others, knowing that help will come their way. Whether it’s offering a free service, giving sound advice, providing a contact name, forwarding a résumé, or giving moral support; paying it forward is all good.

I bring this popular term up in a career networking workshop. To simplify the concept, I tell my attendees that the act of helping others creates good Karma. Further I tell them they should not expect the person you help to immediately repay the favor, because another person will step forward to help you. In fact, you may never receive reciprocation from the person you assisted.

A customer of mine named John Yurka demonstrated the pay it forward mentality in the truest sense; he took photos of five jobseekers for free. He met with them this past Tuesday in a park and spent a good part of his morning making sure the photos he took were to the recipients’ satisfaction.

The photos were astonishing, in my humble opinion. And the jobseekers must have felt the same way, because all of them uploaded their likenesses to LinkedIn. One of the people wrote to me with excitement, commending the work John had done. (An example of John’s work is on the left.)

Another champion of the unemployed, Ken Masson, has helped jobseekers in the past by founding a television show called The New England Job Show. This show comprises of volunteers who help jobseekers find work. Initially the purpose of the show was to film jobseekers’ personal commercials, but soon it branched out to interviewing job search experts, hosting a blog of job-search experts, offering training, and more.

Many of the volunteers from the show eventually find work after starting there, which means that replacements have to be found. When NEJS volunteers find work it’s always great news, but it causes a lot of work for Jackie Simmonds, the current COO of the show. Ken will be dedicating more of his time to the show, because this is what he does; he pays it forward.

There are no hard statistics on how successful paying it forward is. Smart jobseekers simply understand that it makes common sense. It makes common sense because as you’re helping someone, another person is in the process of helping you. I’m convinced that the jobseekers who believe in paying it forward will receive the help they need. How do I know? I just do.