In the last month, someone I know very casually asked me to help him make contacts in market research and data analytics. He asked me if I might know someone at my company or at another company. I smiled and let him know that I did have a few contacts in that area. I spent a few years dabbling in market research to learn that I respect the analytics, but that processing the data was not for me. It was a wonderful learning experience, and I made some wonderful friends. Wherever I go for work, I end up doing some level of data analysis or working directly with the analytics groups. It turned out to be a huge blessing in experience although I didn't choose to pursue my career there.
I connected my acquaintance with a couple of friends after reaching out and getting the okay to make the connection. It was fun to help, and one day he asked me why I was doing it all for him. I didn't feel awkward about sharing my contacts at all. In fact, I felt blessed to be able to do it. I told him I was paying it forward.
During the recession that began in 2009, I was laid off a couple of times meaning I was looking for work a couple of times. I was amazed and pleasantly surprised by how many people willingly shared their friends and contacts with me to help me find my next perfect job. When I could have been at home feeling helpless and hopeless, friends shared their contacts.
A few years ago, I may have chosen to be more protective of my contacts, but after experiencing the generosity of others with their personal networks, I knew it was the way to go. I always ask people if it is ok for me to make the connection before making it out of respect for my contact, but I will take the time and energy to at least ask. That was as much as was done for me a number of times. Now, I enjoy being a connector.
This lesson is not limited to personal networks. It can extend to any other favors or acts of kindness like cooking a meal for someone or giving a car ride. The best thing to do after receiving an act of kindness is to pay it forward because you can!