Toll Booth Incident Taught Me About Job Search

Toll BoothOn my way home from work recently, the toll booth lane got backed up. When I finally got to the attendant and reached out to hand her my money, she said, “The guy in front of you just paid your toll.”

I was shocked. I paused and said, “Did he say why?”

She said, “Well, the guy in front of him paid for him, so he paid for you. It’s that pay-it-forward thing.”

I didn’t need to think twice. I handed her my money and said, “Okay. Then I’ll pay for the person behind me.” Her face lit up and with a big smile she said, “Oh, my! That makes number eight! I wonder how long it will keep going?!” Her reaction was contagious. I drove off with a big smile on my face too. It literally changed my mood. I felt different.

What Loser Wouldn’t Keep it Going?

That night over dinner, I told my husband about the toll booth incident.  Then, I asked aloud, “I wonder how many more did it?” To which my husband replied, “You have to hope a lot. I mean, what kind of loser would have someone do something nice like that for them, and not want to keep it going? If you were in that toll booth line, you were planning to pay anyways, so why not put the money to good use and keep the karma going?”

That’s when it hit me: One of the biggest reasons job search is so ineffective and stressful right now is people aren’t paying-it-forward enough.

Your Job Search Hurts Because…

As a job seeker, especially one not currently working, I realize you feel frustrated, helpless, and depressed. You are in pain – and the human body doesn’t like to be in pain. What you may not realize (or, aren’t ready to accept) is your painful feelings are coming from an endless talk-track of negativity going on inside your head.

(This article over at the Mayo Clinic breaks explains this in medical terms.)

This negative self-talk is causing you physical and emotional stress that hurts your health (i.e. more likely to get sick, etc.). In short, there is plenty of evidence to support you must make a conscious effort to look at things more positively when it comes to your job search. You need to have some feel-good moments related to finding work.

That being said, be honest and ask yourself this: How many people have you actually tried to help with their careers in the last month? I bet not many. Here’s why…

Survival Mode is Making You Selfish!

When we are looking for work, we become very selfish. We are in pain, so we naturally go into survival mode. The rationale is, “Once I get a job, then I’ll help someone else get one.” And yet, the very power of positivity that could come from helping someone else land a job is something you need right now, isn’t it? Truth be told, I think we can all do a better job of leveraging the power of paying-it-forward in job search. It should be a movement. Let’s call it Job-It-Forward!

Job-It-Forward Movement

I wish I could take credit for the name, Job-It-Forward, but it actually was an idea generated by my good friend and writing partner, Dale Dauten. Back when the recession first hit in 2009, he proposed it to our editors, but they shot it down. We had hoped to get some corporate support to build out a strategy for sharing the successful stories of those engaged in Job-It-Forward activities. Alas, it was not meant to be… at least back then.

Fast forward to today…

CAREEREALISM was just a baby blog in 2009 with a tiny audience. But today, we have all of you! More than 800,000 monthly visitors that care about the same thing: Learning the new rules to job search and career development.

Tell Us Your Job-It-Forward Story

I’m looking for stories where everyday professionals decided to Job-It-Forward for friends, family, and even strangers? What have you done to get someone hired? What’s working?  How did it make you feel? Share your stories in the comments below. Let’s learn from one another all the ways we could be doing a better job at helping other’s find jobs!

Your Next Step

If you are struggling to stay positive and motivated in your job search, then I suggest you sign up for my videos on the Ultimate Technique for an Easier Job Search.

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