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Posted: September 28, 2012

Pay it forward

Is serving part of your brand?

Lida Citro├źn

Corporations know the powerful benefits of corporate social responsibility including: serving an underserved need in the community, increasing employee morale, developing strategic partnerships with key organizations and increased brand awareness of being seen as a company that focuses on serving others, not just their financial bottom line.

There are also many individuals who contribute to their community, their cause and their society through financial support, sweat equity, business influence and intellectual capital. Their contribution is greatly appreciated by the groups who are at the receiving end of their generosity.

Is it the goal of your company or your personal legacy to be remembered for your service? Are you at a point in your career or business growth where social responsibility and action are calling you? Can you start now? Yes, you can!

“Paying it forward,” is the concept of asking that a good deed or service is repaid or reciprocated by helping others, rather than by collecting financial incentive. It is used to describe the effort a company or individual takes to share gifts with others, and it is a powerful way to support your own passions, interests, and goals.

When you consider the desired reputation you will build for yourself – how you will be remembered – is serving a part of that brand? If so, here are some suggestions for how to move in that direction intentionally and with authenticity:

1.     Find something you are passionate about. Do you love animals? Why not volunteer at an animal rescue facility or shelter. Whether it’s playing with the dogs and cats, joining the board of directors or aiding in fundraising for your local shelter, serving where you are interested and have a passion is a great start! Are you passionate about helping children who have been victims of abuse or neglect? There are many local and national agencies committed to serving these children, and they can use your help.

Twice a year, I spend a week in Philadelphia with the Wall Street Warfighters Foundation and help service-disabled US war veterans learn how to build and promote their personal brands. Their issues are complex and unique (due to the culture and traditions they bring from their military careers versus corporate norms), and our work is intense. I do this work because I feel a passion to give back in gratitude for their service. It is my choice, and it is part of my value proposition.

2.     Set realistic expectations for yourself regarding the commitment to serve. Life is busy. Work is time consuming. Families are active. To add service to that mix means a commitment – of time, energy, focus and sometimes of financial resources.  Evaluate your commitment. What can you realistically contribute that will add meaningful value to the entity you will be serving and satisfy your personal desire to give back?

One of my professional colleagues, Robert White, is a highly sought after author, speaker and coach on the topic of life, personal empowerment and success.  He is in high demand! He is also passionate about helping disadvantaged women return to work. He created a completely separate website to offer his compelling training tools to Work Opportunities for Women (WOW) participants at no charge, so they can access the tools, information and power to make themselves successful in work and life. While the initial investment is complete, his work and contribution continues.

3.     Give unconditionally. If you serve with the expectation of gaining new work, meeting valuable contacts and producing a direct ROI on your efforts, then you might find your service unfulfilling. On the flip side, if you serve with the goal of helping, contributing and making a difference, you might be surprised with the return you receive. Sometimes, volunteerism turns into paying work. Often it is simply service to better society and community.

A well-respected business attorney in Denver at Minor & Brown, Jim Thomas, volunteers his leadership talents, expertise and time with the non-profits he focuses on. Whether that effort is church-related, youth directed or serving The Morgan Adams Foundation focusing on pediatric cancer research, Jim’s commitment fits in with his professional career, family time and commitment to community. If he can make time, can you?

If service is part of your ultimate desired personal brand, start today. There is someone out there who needs you.

Lida Citroën is the author of Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition and Principal of LIDA360, a consulting firm that helps create effective market positioning through the use of brand strategies. She regularly presents at conferences, events and programs, teaching transitioning veterans how to understand their unique value and market them to future employers.

Citroën is an active member of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) and works closely with General Peter Pace’s program in Philadelphia, Wall Street Warfighters Foundation (WSWF). For more information, please visit, www.yournextmissionbook.com  and connect with her on twitter, @LIDA360.
   

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