Paying It Forward to Establish Your Personal Brand

Have you considered what paying it forward will do for your personal brand? Here's how paying it forward has worked for me and how it can work for you too.

Paying It Forward to Establish Your Personal Brand

Have you considered what paying it forward will do for your personal brand?

According to Wikipedia: “Pay it forward is asking the beneficiary of a good deed to repay it to others instead of to the original benefactor”.

In my career, I’ve had plenty of people take an interest in, and help, me. So for me, Pay it forward isn’t about a specific deed someone has done, it is just having a habit of doing good deeds for others, expecting nothing in return.

When I go networking, my goal is to help you. I will be looking to see if I can offer:

  • An introduction to one of my contacts that will help you meet your goal
  • To review your resume or LinkedIn profile
  • Some sage advice
  • Maybe just some kind words

What do I expect in return? Nothing!

But I do receive something, your good opinion. You will perceive me favorably if I help you in some way. That’s not why I do it, but there is that reward. It has become a strong part of my personal brand.

The Key is Being a Good Listener

To be effective at offering help someone could really use, you need to be a good listener.

I live in Austin Texas where you could attend a networking event any day and just about any time of day. No one is from Austin…well most people are not from here originally.

My goal when meeting someone new is to get the other person to talk about himself or herself.

I am looking for something we have in common which might include:

  • Grew up in the same part of the country
  • Went to similar universities
  • Have similar hobbies
  • Our kids play the same sports

At this point, it’s not about work. I don’t want to know what you do, I want to know who you are. Too many networking conversations dead-end at job descriptions. You make a much better connection when you’re focused on the person.

My first question is always:

How did you get to Austin?

Everyone has a story and just about everyone likes to tell it. I want to get you talking about yourself and your experiences.

You might respond, I came here to go to college. So my next question is: What did you get your degree in?

A fun one is when they say, I followed my boyfriend or girlfriend here. My next question is always – Are you still with them? The response almost always is no. But they’re still glad to be here.

Once we have found something in common and have a better feel for who you are, I can ask:

How can I help you?

Remember I said to expect nothing in return. Do things flow back from this process?

Sometimes. Most often when you least expect it. It is called creating good Karma!

You will be perceived as a good listener, someone who is concerned for others and someone who is willing to help. These are all traits of likable people.

If you make it a habit of paying it forward, over time this will be an integral part of your personal brand.

Most of you are not from Austin. Find another question to ask that people enjoy answering.

Give it a try and let me know how it works!


Marc Miller is the founder of Career Pivot which helps Baby Boomers design careers they can grow into for the next 30 years. Marc authored the book Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers, published in January 2013, which has been featured on, US News and World Report, CBS Money-Watch and PBS’ Next Avenue. Marc has made six career pivots himself, serving in several positions at IBM in addition to working at Austin, Texas startups, teaching math in an inner-city high school and working for a local non-profit. Learn more about Marc and Career Pivot by visiting the Career Pivot Blog or follow Marc on Twitter or Facebook.

About the Author

Dan Schawbel

Dan Schawbel is the founder of the Personal Branding Blog, a site that offers branding and career advice from Dan and his team of experts. The blog, which has been syndicated by Aol Jobs, Yahoo! Shine, Forbes,, Reuters, Hoovers, and many others, helps professionals learn how to build a personal brand for their own career and job search success.

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