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Published on: Friday, July 16, 2010

Do Good Without the Thought of Payback


A couple of weeks ago I posted a few thoughts on some of the "learnings" senior executives in transition or those just looking to make a change could take from coach John Wooden, which for lack of something more creative I called: Job Search Success Wooden Style. Based on some of the sports news that has happened since then, I hope someone sends a copy of Wooden on Leadership to the latest addition to the roster of the Miami Heat, but that's another story.

The real reason I bring up the post again is due to a comment that came in from Martin Yate, the well-known and respected author of the Knock 'Em Dead series that has covered the subject of effective job search from start to finish for many years.

Because of the dynamic nature of the Executive Insider I was afraid that Martin's comment would be lost to many who come to the site as the post was now "old news" in terms of cyber time.

The other reason I wanted to make sure his comment got some additional daylight is because if you are anything like me, you can hear or read something from one source and "get it" without it staying with you in a meaningful way. Hear or read something on the same topic from another source, and this time you really GET IT. I think the way Martin expressed the philosophy we have espoused at ExecuNet since the day we started some 22 years ago stated the thoughts in a way that was different than I had seen in a while and was well worth sharing with anyone who finds themselves out there looking for executive jobs and was wondering if there might be a different way of moving forward.

Here's how Martin put it:

"As Dave noted, one of Wooden's aphorisms concerned doing good without thought of the payback.

It's the right thing to do by all ethical and religious standards, and doing something good for others on a daily basis is also a matter of what I like to think of as enlightened self-interest.

If I can help you without hurting myself I should do so, I must do so. It is good for my conscience, there is real joy in helping another and all feel-good fuzzies aside, when I help you, I increase both my credibility and visibility, and that is in my best interests.

During a job search, everyone feels just as you deep inside. Practical gestures now, when we are all swimming in the deep end of the ocean, are the infinitely more valuable than the mere gesture itself.

When you consistently try to help the people you meet during a job search, you become a sphere of influence, and your network expands. Networks thrive on give-and-take, and the giving is so easy to do:
  • Do something with those job postings that are almost but not quite right for you. Save and offer them to people for whom they might be perfect.

  • Feed yourself information you can use. Limit mass media intake and instead feed your mind and your spirit with the practical tools and the motivation to get you from here in the deep blue sea to over there, sitting in the sand with a big fat grin and a piña colada.

  • Face facts. You are in a job search; they happen about every four years, but everything has changed since last time, and nothing makes sense. Stop taking short cuts 'cause there aren't any, and learn to do it properly this time. Example: your resume is the most financially important document you will ever own, yet what have you really done to educate yourself, to get one that delivers?

  • Commit to at least understanding the essentials of career management; you might learn something to help you avoid this happening again. Feed yourself the heavy ammunition, and when you read something or you hear something powerful, you pass it on.

Do good for yourself in these ways every day, then pass on what you find to someone else; good will come back to you. At ExecuNet you have a wealth of tools and support, but perhaps your most valuable and uplifting resources are your peers and colleagues, the other each other, use each other.

Make difference today; smile when you talk on the phone; kick a**; take names and leave the footprints of a person who cares. It's enlightened self-interest."

"...footprints of a person who cares." Great stuff! Thanks, Martin.

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Dave Opton's avatarDave Opton
Dave Opton founded ExecuNet in 1988 to provide a trusted environment where senior-level executives could build career opportunities by facilitating connections to other executives, experts and key market insights. Dave has drawn upon his 35 years of experience in human resources to develop and grow what has become the leading business and career membership network for executives and senior managers. A widely recognized executive career management expert, Dave is regularly quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Business Week, Fortune, Fast Company, and other leading business publications. Mr. Opton received his BA from Indiana University.

Posted by Stuart
08/13 @ 01:47 PM
I agree with that. I always try to ask my employees, clients and strategic partners what I can do to help them in a business, personal or other situation. I would like to believe this is how people should be; I unfortunately do not know if the next generation will be so inclined. But I am optimistic.
Posted by David Beauregard
07/26 @ 05:51 PM
I could not agree more with the concept of doing good without the thought of is for the most part a discipline to be able to focus on someone else for that moment during which we are asked for help. It is certainly in ones' own self-interest to do so. We are, however, blinded by the urgency, failures and successes of our individual search. Solution: Stay open, focused, be a listener and respond to calls for assistance.
Posted by Dave Opton
07/25 @ 08:17 PM

Glad to hear that you share leads with others.

Even though we are 22 years old, and every one of the positions that we post come to us directly from the the recruiting source itself be it a SF, company or consulting firm, we still have a special place for members to share leads amongst themselves as well.
Posted by Gary Ares
07/25 @ 02:14 PM
"your résumé is the most financially important document you will ever own..." So true. However, my recent experiences tell me there is much, much, more to being a somebody today.

One must think in much greater detail about developing their resume, because of the widespread use of keyword scanners by employers. The rub is that it's not the same for each resume one sends out!

Next, let's go macro and perform a Google search on our name to see what comes up. If is blank, it is time to get noticed. The best place to start in LinkedIn. By far. They have some good educational webinars and videos that are helpful.

Companies and recruiters are scanning the web for candidates who might be superb candidates, but are not actively looking. They do this using keywords and other automated tools.

Finally, excellent site. Thank you. I'll be back.
Posted by Hasan Mahboob
07/25 @ 10:10 AM
Excellent honest advice worth embracing for any one regardless he/she is looking for a new job or not.
Posted by mike doolin
07/24 @ 08:32 PM
I agree 100%. the pay it forward concept brings satisfaction as well as potential. I have been job-hunting for a while now and when I see an opportunity that I believe fits one of my fellows "in transition", I pass it on rather than letting it rest with me. And by the way, I absolutely abhor the "black hole".
Posted by Dave Opton
07/23 @ 05:50 PM

Many thanks for your taking the time to express your thoughts. As you well know, one of the biggest frustrations that job seekers have is what has become known as (and with justification) the "black hole."

Readers will be glad to hear from a recruiter who understands what playing it forward really means and acts on it.

Posted by ilana eberson
07/22 @ 11:11 PM
Whatever you put out to the universe comes back to you. We so believe this that we've built our business on the pay-it-forward concept. At our business events, we actively encourage members to do something good for the people they meet through our group. This helps members feel great about their business interactions, instead of everyone being just about "sell" all the time. Cheers, ilana
Posted by Mark Soufleris
07/22 @ 08:26 PM

Great post and spot on! The world is full of givers and takers, I got into the executive search business because I enjoy helping others and I wanted to get closer to helping individuals transition their careers. There is nothing more gratifying for me than being able to help someone either directly, or indirectly with their search activities. Regards, Mark
Posted by Deb Haliczer
07/22 @ 04:45 PM
This is right on -- we have to be confident when in search, and helping others ends up helping ourselves. We feel good about ourselves and that translates into confidence. What goes around comes around ...
Posted by Joy Samuel Paul
07/22 @ 05:10 AM
Dear Dave & John,

Wonderful thoughts!!! I'm beginning to learn and appreciate the benefits of going the extra mile and trying to help people with out expecting a payback.
Nice Article, keep it coming.


Posted by Harnish
07/22 @ 01:43 AM
If you look to help and don't expect anything you come over sincere and the more powerful your network will become. There will always be people who will try and take advantage of your willingness to help, but you learn to spot them quickly early on. I agree also with Rich, as you assist you become a more powerful influencer.
Posted by alison
07/21 @ 09:44 PM
I must be a glutton because I've volunteered for more than 20 years in those milieus. Although my resume has quite a lot of meat there have been no takers. All the networking during this time was useless for me in the job market and in my businesses. Now, I have switched from secular to ecumenical for my volunteer efforts where there is more humanity; just as many "politicians" but more humanity all the same. We'll just have to see how this goes.
Posted by Dave Opton
07/21 @ 09:16 PM

Certainly is true, and for sure it often seems as if the world is made up of more "takers" than "givers" but you are short-changing yourself if you don't continue to do what you think is "right" for you and what gives you satisfaction, and there is a lot of satisfaction in helping others.

You have to believe in playing it forward.
Posted by alison
07/21 @ 08:56 PM
Over the many years of being in business for myself and as a partner; volunteering for cultural not-for-profits and local government agencies, I have found that people are very willing to help themselves to your talents and abilities and very quick to say thanks and thumb their noses at your needs when they arise.
Posted by Dave Opton
07/21 @ 08:54 PM

Knowing you personally over the years and knowing of your track record in terms of the value system you bring to not just what you do for a living, but life in general I am not surprised that you would be very supportive of what Martin had to say and certainly understand why I wanted to share it with others.
Posted by Lindsay Powell
07/21 @ 08:24 PM
I have written a book and needed to track down photographs (
Via Facebook one of my friends (who I have never met in person) located in Germany, found a hi-res image and notified me. Thorugh Twitter I have been given tips and leads by other authors (who I have never met), and happily been RTing and commenting on their tweets. Through a fan website/bulletin board, I have been able to assist other researchers (who have never met me) in their projects via postings and comments; and I have also been engaged in live chat via Facebook with other instructors on how to use material. I have been amazed at the kindness of strangers who do not expect a payback - it's been an enlightening and uplifting experience. In return all I have to do is share what I know.
Posted by Gina Cleo Bloome
07/21 @ 08:13 PM
As part of my job hunt, I reached out to my peers asking if they would be interested in forming a group of Sr. Recruiting people because there just isn't a cohesive group in our market.

Not only were people enthused about my idea, but I got a great job interview out of the effort.

And this is only day one of the concept!
Posted by Rich Gee
07/17 @ 09:48 AM
"When you consistently try to help the people you meet during a job search, you become a sphere of influence, and your network expands."

Dave - you are spot on with this! And I love Martin Yate (what a blast from the past!).

The more people you meet and the more that you take a sincere interest in HELPING THEM, the benefits that will flow your way are exponential.

A good way to begin doing this - when you are speaking with a friend, colleague, or acquaintance - ask "So how can I help?"

You will see a massive change in tenor - and they will open up to you. And they will then help YOU!
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