Giving Pays Large Dividends for All of Us at Work

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.

But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

Lilla Watson


I’ve spent most of the day putting the finishing touches on this year’s property tax appeal; my brain cells are squeezed dry. I am, as always, looking forward to a lively discussion on Tuesday, while Noah and Joel watch me channel my inner amateur lawyer.

Earlier today, our Senior Youth conducted their annual Bridging Service to send their dear comrades off to college.  One of them quoted Lilla Watson during their presentation to us.  Another youth, a former Coming-of-Age mentee, shared her love and appreciation for her older sister, headed off to start her college career.  “I know my life would not have been the same without her in it; I will miss her terribly,”  she said.

Yesterday, my good friend Avon asked me to present a Career Workshop to up-and-coming young women served by The Northeast Parent & Child Society.  I’m no fashion diva by any means; and my challenge was to coach these young women on how to make a great first impression.

In preparation, I reached back to my own early career experience, with a equivalent college loan debt of about $40,000, making only $8,000 a year during my first of many rides to the Recession Rodeo.  What meant the most to me as I began interviewing for career jobs?  The first thing that came to mind was how to look professional on a shoestring budget.  So I put together an interview outfit accordingly:

  • Navy jacket:         $6
  • Navy pants:          $3
  • Peach blouse:      $3
  • Matching scarf:     $1
  • Navy shoes:         $7

And made it part of my “show me, don’t tell me” workshop presentation.

That day, I shared my experience, strength and hope with about 60 talented young women, as my mentors before me have so lovingly and generously done for me.  I validated their great outfits, all decked out for the Career Fair.  I recognized some of their talents on the spot, and told them.  I gave advice on how to best manage and conceal tattoos.  I gave them my daddy’s advice:  if you make 30 calls and you get one “yes,” you’re having a great day:  for after all, you only need one job.  My friend and co-presenter Barb Wisnom provided a new, more positive trope on that theme:  try and collect 20 “no’s” and make it a game.  Can you?  I’m going to try it out.  Because one of the hardest lessons when you’re marketing yourself to potential employers (customers) to learn is that it’s business, not personal.  “How can your feelings not get hurt,” one of the students asked.  “Practice, repetition and time,” I replied, with full knowledge and serenity.

Saturday was a day of vocational giving, and I received nothing in return except an unexpected and delicious sandwich from Ambition.  And from my experience, the dividends that always come thereafter are:  priceless.

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