Common wisdom in the career-advice field recommends that when you start a new job you should volunteer for tasks that others might be hesitant to take on and go the extra mile to show your capacity for commitment, hard work and acting as a team player. While this is certainly sound advice, generosity goes beyond simply volunteering for tasks at opportune moments.
When you act with generosity you are consistently open with your skills, ideas, and knowledge. When you are generous you don’t just give of yourself, but acknowledge the contributions and needs of others. The result is a network of people who are also willing to help you.
Here are a few ideas of how you can bring a spirit of generosity to your career:
Create a resource or service that is useful to the people you serve
In my current position I co-run the Fiscal Sponsorship at the New York Foundation for the Arts. Artists are required to submit a budget for their project when they apply to our program. My colleagues and I noticed that artists often made the same budget mistakes and some neglected to submit budgets at all. In response we organized a free project budget basics workshop that we presented to a packed house and offered online as a free podcast. As a result, artists can build their skills free of charge and we receive stronger, complete applications.
Share information that helps others take the next step
In his book The Thank You Economy Gary Vaynerchuk explains that businesses and professionals need to adapt to the openness, feedback and communication the Internet offers by becoming more communicative and caring with their stakeholders. Keep this in mind as you communicate daily with your clients and colleagues. When they reach out to you with a question or need, even if you can’t offer exactly what they are asking for, give them the information they need to take the next step, whether that’s directing them to someone who can help them or a suggesting a resource where they can find what they are looking for. Send them a link, a person’s contact information, or an article. They will remember and thank you for it.
Take time to understand your colleagues’ needs, goals and concerns
When I worked a large museum in New York City, I took time to understand the schedules and job-related concerns of colleagues in other departments. Because I established a reputation of respecting my colleagues’ processes and listening to their needs I found that people would go the extra mile for me. For example, I knew that the editorial department worked on a strict schedule that was determined by the availability of the graphic design department and print shop. If I requested last minute changes to publication text from the editors it meant they would have to reach out to the designers and I would potentially slow down the whole publication and printing schedule. When I acknowledged that what I was asking for required extra effort on their part, explained why my request was important to the museum overall, and acknowledged their help, I found they were happy to help me.
Generosity is a kind of currency that you build slowly. When you are generous you establish your reputation as a key facilitator, team member and leader. That recognition can lead to new and deeper connections and opportunities and will translate into a feeling of good will towards you. Good will is the strongest quality you can offer.
About The Author
Eleanor C. Whitney is a writer, arts administrator and musician living in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently a Program Officer at the New York Foundation for the Arts and is the author of Grow: How to Take Your Do It Yourself Project and Passion to the Next Level and Quit Your Job, released in 2013 on Cantankerous Titles.