Helping People Is A Two-Way Street

by Cali Harris

A colleague I worked with more than eight years ago recently sent me an email and asked if I’d like to get coffee and catch up. I assumed he was simply interested in chatting about how our careers had progressed in the years we hadn’t seen each other.

When we sat down at the cafe, he revealed that he was looking to make a career transition. Although he enjoyed the work he did, he wanted to take on new challenges and stretch his skills. The reason he wanted to meet was not only to catch up, but to also ask me for advice on his career shift, as well as for introductions to other people who could help him. I was shocked! He is approximately 15 years my senior, has held high-level positions at the companies he has worked for, and is a talented individual. I couldn’t believe that he would come to me for advice.

It was certainly an honor to be a sounding board for his career ideas and to help him in any way I could. I can only guess that he reached out to me because he has followed my professional activities online and knew that I have a network of people who work in the field he wants to explore.

After our meeting, it struck me that helping people doesn’t happen on a one-way street. It might have been more predictable that I would have approached my more-experienced former colleague for his help in my career. Instead, he reached out to me for help. When he followed up via email to thank me for taking the time to meet, I had to reflect and consider what a great opportunity it is to be able to truly help someone—as others have so often helped me. 

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