Each month, I participate in the Career Collective, a community of bloggers who congregate to answer a common question. This month's question focuses on career advice for the New Year. Here is my perspective which is cross-posted on my other blog, The Emerging Professional, with other responses.
Over the holidays, I took a sunset walk on the beach with my nieces and family friends. The South Carolina winds were cold enough to require my thickest fisherman’s sweater. But the sea was calm and the light was spectacular. With less than a week before the New Year, we set out with thoughts of good cheer and optimism.
This was a familiar beach to all of us, and we were looking forward to finding conch shells and sand dollars, stepping over jellyfish, and watching periwinkles dig deep back into the sand as the tides receded. Instead we found thousands of starfish washed up along the beach at the edges of the shore.
I began to throw the starfish back. One at a time, I pitched many of them back into the sea as far as I could toss them. (Truth be told, I don’t have a long reach with my pitching arm.) I threw the starfish back because someone told me to: I remembered reading a story many years ago, about a boy who encountered a similar situation of countless starfish along a beach and a grumpy elder who said, “you will never save them. The boy replied “but I made a difference to that one.”
So I threw many of the starfish back as far as I could hurl them. After watching me for about ten minutes, my niece Amelia, turned to me and said, “Aunt Chandlee, I think you are playing favorites—you’ve only tried to save one gray starfish. All of the others you’ve thrown have orange spots.” I have to admit that she was right. I was naturally drawn to save the orange ones because they looked more alive than the gray ones. So I started to throw back the gray starfish, too. I hope that I made a difference, but it’s quite possible they were all already dead—victim of extreme weather conditions or a change in tidal patterns. (The local paper reported that about 50,000 dead starfish also washed up on an Irish beach in November.)
I’ll never know if my “made a difference to one” starfish campaign worked, but I do think it provides a great metaphor for this month’s Career Collective theme of making the most of the New Year: What will happen if you could make a difference for another person? A year ago on January 29, 2009, Mark Stelzner (@stelzner) asked a simple question on Twitter, “Was wondering what would happen if each of us could commit to helping one person find a job? Are you game?” Three hours later his question had become the #JobAngels movement on Twitter, by November over 1,000 job seekers had secured new jobs as a result of the collective outreach. (To learn more about JobAngels and to sign up as a volunteer or job seeker in need of a little help from a friend, visit www.jobangels.org)
While you may be reading this post in an effort to help yourself, I challenge you to seek out ways to help another person out along the way. It might lead to new opportunities for you as well, and it may just help make you feel better. As Sir Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”