Kindness and compassion are integral to many roles in the social impact sector. Maybe you already make a point to be nice and practice empathy on a daily basis—or perhaps just wish you did.
Either way, today, October 5th is National Be Nice Day—a particularly timely occasion to express gratitude towards and do good deeds for people in your workspaces and communities. Below are a few quick ways you can take a moment to be nice.
1. Support a stranger’s professional or academic trajectory
There are myriad ways to offer advice and support online; LinkedIn and CareerVillage make it easy to connect with other professionals and students who are interested in your sector. On LinkedIn, search for #opentowork and/or #hireme, to find and contact people who are searching for positions and might benefit from hearing some words of encouragement, gaining your insight or simply having someone with whom to vent and brainstorm. As makes sense, alter your search to include a hashtag for your industry, or limit your search to members of your network, if you aren’t so keen to engage with a stranger.
Prefer to help students? CareerVillage provides a platform for professionals to answer student questions. Common topics include selecting a major, applying for college and finding internships. Don’t worry about being an expert or providing definitive answers, often hearing a different perspective is useful and worthwhile for people who are weighing multiple options.
2. Send a note of gratitude to someone who has made a difference in your professional or personal life
We all appreciate being recognized now and then. Take a moment to think about someone whom you’d like to extend gratitude. Maybe it is someone who did essential work throughout the pandemic or a former instructor or intern you’ve fallen out of touch with. If possible, consider sending a written line in the mail; many will be warmed by the gesture and grateful for a chance to look away from the screen. Expressing gratitude isn’t just kind—it’s the healthy thing to do; giving thanks has been shown to help us regain focus and navigate being overwhelmed.
3. Show the planet some tenderness
When you’re kind to the planet, everyone benefits. From tending to the trees in your vicinity, or starting your own ecobrick garden, to promoting eco-friendly behaviors at your office, there are plenty of ways to demonstrate respect for the environment.
4. Organize a team appreciation effort
There’s power in numbers. While being recognized by a colleague for your contributions always feels great, there’s something to be said for being recognized by a group of people you’ve supported. Consider asking your teammates to pitch in to write a note and/or send a gift to any deserving custodial and/or support staff—especially colleagues who have shown up in meaningful ways throughout the pandemic. You could also opt to send a token of praise to any members of senior leadership who have been noticeably accessible, transparent or graceful about making challenging decisions. Let them know you understand the hurdles they’ve overcome and you appreciate their persistence and energy.
5. Volunteer virtually
Some may argue that our time and attention are the most valuable things we have to offer. Think about showing kindness by devoting an hour, an afternoon, or another period of time to a cause you support. If you don’t already have an organization in mind, visit our compilation of virtual volunteering opportunities and listing of mutual aid networks for inspiration. Alternatively, think about supporting students at your alma mater by offering them feedback on graduate school and employment applications or consider other ways to support educators and students this fall.
6. Be kind to yourself
While being nice can be an external effort, it's important to remember that this work is also internal. Social impact professionals spend so much time serving and supporting others that time for self-care isn’t always prioritized. Remember that your wellbeing impacts the people you interact with, which means you aren’t the only beneficiary of your own self-care. Whether you opt for making time to meditate, documenting your points of pride, or rearranging your workspace, how you care for yourself is totally up to you.
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Sheena Daree Miller is based in Brooklyn and divides her time between working in faculty development at a university and managing a black heritage center at a library. She is committed to promoting equity, with an emphasis on supporting graduating students and career changers.