Be generous with your time
Paying it forward matters. We're not talking intangible, touchy-feely karma. We're talking real-world, practical life and career benefits.
My work life is broken down into hours. Whether I’m doing project-based work or ongoing retainer-based engagements, I look at my work calendar as a series of hours which can be allocated to the tasks that I’m hired to accomplish. Obviously, any time I’m spending on work I’ve been hired to do is money; I’m paid for my time.
And when old colleagues reach out and ask to catch up during the work week, for 30 or even 60 minutes of potential work time, I say yes, without hesitation. Yes, I can carve out unpaid time to connect with you, former coworker. Or I can meet with your friend who wants to know more about podcasting. Or I can meet with you, stranger-to-me who is reaching out to me for networking advice.
Not long ago, I shared thoughts on the power of awesomeness, on how meaningful it can be to reach out to someone whose work you liked or whose contribution you valued, and tell them so. That kind of mood booster is not zero-sum; it injects goodness into the recipient’s day, and it’s likely they’ll push out even more goodness in their interactions, thanks to you. It’s the opposite of a vicious circle. It’s a virtuous… I don't know, dodecahedron.
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Saying yes to folks, taking the meeting even if it’s a distraction or delay from the more “important” or actionable work of the day — it’s a good thing to do. If you only say yes and fill up every working hour with such calls, that’s a problem; you’re not being generous, you’re getting walked all over. But if a couple of these come up each week, you’re talking about an hour or so out of a 40-hour work week.
You should take that time out of your hectic schedule.
Sharing the gift of your time, expertise, and counsel is absolutely exhibiting more of the power of awesomeness I talked about earlier. And of course any of the people you advise — particularly armed with your incomparable advice — may well end up in the position to help you, too. They could become key decision makers at companies you want to work with, references, or clients. Even if they don’t, it’s hard to argue against putting more goodness into the world.