I’ve been thinking about the various jobs I’ve held throughout my working life and how I’ve landed where I have. I’ve enjoyed a very successful career, and it’s because I’ve had help along the way. Yes, I’ve done much on my own, but I’ve had support, advice, recommendations and had access to open positions because of others who wanted to help me.
I am acquainted with a woman who was in a very senior role at AOL. I did not know her all that well while I was there. But I would reach out to her from time to time after leaving AOL for her advice and input on various topics. She ALWAYS responded to my emails with thoughtful, helpful advice and guidance. Not too long ago we met for dinner – at her suggestion. We got to talking about AOL and how we all now know people in many companies all over the country. It’s like we have an ‘in,’ no matter where we want to go. And she told me that whenever someone from AOL reaches out to her, she always responds. Even if she doesn’t know the person, she always tries to help.
Lesson 1 is a simple lesson that’s worth learning: it’s important to help others. Helping others is not only great for them, but it makes you feel pretty good too. It’s a win-win! Helping is easy and costs you nothing.
There are some people who I always list as references when I’m interviewing. Why? Because they want to help. They know me well from working with me in the past, and they are supportive. It’s important to know who you can count on in work (and personal!) life. And it’s equally important to be someone yourself who can be counted on.
Lesson 2 is: it’s equally important to know when to move away from those who aren’t helpful. We’ve all worked with people who do not care about helping others. Unless there’s a benefit to themselves, they aren’t interested. These aren’t necessarily bad people, but they are certain to be selfish and perhaps even a little manipulative, even if they don’t realize it. Spotting those folks, accepting who they are…and keeping your distance, is important.
As Mr. Rogers used to say: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”