Pay It Forward! Benefits to you and others for helping out.

Last Monday, I overheard my husband Pete as he had a conversation with a recruiter. Pete works as a firmware engineer, a specialty that lately has been in strong demand. Because he maintains a complete profile on LinkedIn and has strong experience, he frequently gets calls from headhunters.

Yet he’s happy in his current position, so I was curious about how he’d handle the call. Would he say, “Thanks for reaching out, but I’m all set for now”, or something different?

What he did raised my already-high opinion of him. First, he listened patiently to what the recruiter was seeking, including asking clarifying questions. Next, he brainstormed several potential people who might be a fit. Pete’s company recently laid off a handful of coworkers, and a few of them could be a match. And then finally, he offered to make some calls on the recruiter’s behalf to see if other people might be interested. At the end of the conversation, they were laughing and making technical jokes that I didn’t understand, but showed that they had respect and appreciation for each other.

Thinking it through later, I realized that not only was Pete being helpful, he was strengthening a relationship with someone who could assist him down the line, should he need it.

People frequently cringe at the thought of networking, claiming it’s insincere and too scary to risk putting themselves out there for. Yet Pete’s example demonstrated how in just a few minutes, a conversation with someone can change lives for the better.

Whether speaking with a recruiter or some other contact, a simple agenda—similar to what Pete demonstrated—can lead to win-win outcomes: First, learn a little about the other person’s world and priorities. How are things going, and what are they aiming to accomplish? Second, in just few minutes, describe what you’re working toward yourself. And finally, brainstorm resources and next steps that could be helpful to both of you.

So the next time a colleague is trying to make progress on a project, spend a few minutes to see how you can help.