Gratitude Rocks, Part II: Giving Back, Paying Forward, and Other Grateful Actions

Today we continue our series on the career benefits of gratitude. Last week, we discussed the power of a gratitude practice, the importance of thanking ordinary folks we come in contact with during our job hunt, and why gratefulness can create a healthier and happier life.

But what does acting grateful look like? While telling someone "thank you" is important (and reflects good manners), words alone can seem hollow when they're not backed up with actions.

Some grateful actions in a career search may simply focus on approaching each job interview or application with a fresh and hopeful focus on what the opportunity represents. For example, Lindy Kyzer, editor of, discusses her experiences talking with recruiters in the security/military/defense sector on this topic:

Talking to recruiters I hear over and over again how important attitude is in an offer of employment. Now, a bright smile and sparkling personality aren’t going to make you a technical expert and land you a job you’re not qualified for, but it will put you in line above other qualified candidates – especially those who are a bit disgruntled with the job search ... the recruiter or potential employer you’re chatting with doesn’t know this is the seventh job fair you’ve been to or the fourteenth resume you’ve sent this month. So find some way to make it feel like the first time, every time.

If you're in a position to help, rather than be helped, in the career realm, there are a host of ways to "pay it forward" (helping someone who isn't in a position to help you) or to "give back" (provide aid to someone or to an organization that has nurtured your career). An interesting LinkedIn Answers thread I found recently mentions multiple ways to pay a good deed forward in the professional world:

  • Become an entrepreneur and create jobs
  • Help others with building skills or subject matter knowledge
  • Providing feedback on other people's resumes, cover letters, search strategies, etc.
  • Make introductions between businesses and people looking for work, either live or through social networks such as LinkedIn

And if you're looking for a more selfish reason to volunteer your time helping others with their careers, consider this: a study released this year by Catalyst, a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for women in business, found that those who help others develop their full potential is an integral part of successful leadership. According to the report, it pays off, not only for emerging talent but for those who invest time in cultivating them, leading to an average of $25,075 in additional compensation for the mentor.

One final action of gratitude that many of us can relate to (or are hypnotized to do!) this time of year is buying gifts. When showing gratitude through gift-giving, small is often just as effective, and in some cases more ethical, than maxing out the credit cards. Author and productivity expert Leo Babauta, who writes the popular blog Zen Habits, has compiled a list of 30 free or low-cost gifts that can provide a big dose of gratitude to the recipient, without creating obligation or awkwardness.

He has excellent advice about how to select a gift that you're giving out of gratitude or to show appreciation:

Let’s first identify what’s essential: that we show the person who has done something nice for us how much we appreciate them. It’s not essential that the gift be big, or expensive, or anything like that. It’s a token of our appreciation …

The gift should also be appropriate to the person — if it’s personal, it’s likely to mean more. So while wine is always a nice gift, if the person is into other types of drinks (such as coffee), that would make a better gift. So take a moment to consider the person, what they like, and the times you’ve spent together.

The questions to you:

  • How do you show gratitude or thankfulness to people who have helped you in your career?
  • If you've been the recipient of grateful actions in your professional life, which ones have touched you the most?

~Liz Massey, Managing Editor, ASU Alumni Association