Well, the hits just keep on coming!  In the last few days, I’ve been thrilled to witness a continuing wave of “unabashed helping” taking place out there in the job market, which is absolutely great to see.  Story after story has come rolling in to my inbox lately of people who have been on the receiving end of some generous (and frequently unprompted) assistance from friends, acquaintances, and often even complete strangers.

What I believe this trend underscores, more than anything, is a rediscovered realization around the importance of community.  Simply put, people have banded together since the dawn of time largely out of the realization that it’s a wise strategy to surround yourself with other trusted individuals, given that all of our fortunes (literally and figuratively) are extremely fickle and uncertain, at best.  Sometimes you’ll be in a position to be a “giver” when those around you are in need, and at other times, you’ll need to become more of a “taker” when your own personal chips are down.  But that’s the beauty of it.  Communities get this, intrinsically, and operate based on the time-tested principle that what goes around tends to come around.

So in an era when many traditional community structures (e.g. bowling leagues, town hall meetings, the church, etc.) are not quite as commonplace as they once were, it’s great to see people banding together in new ways (e.g. LinkedIn Groups, networking gatherings, political “tea parties”, etc. ) to replicate the same awesome power of the community construct.  Not feeling that you’re part of an active community of any kind?  If so, it’s time to find one.  Or perhaps even more than one.  Searching for work as an “island unto yourself” is too stressful of a proposition these days for the average person to take upon themselves, alone.

As for some specific upbeat stories to pass along, related to helpfulness, I’d first steer people to the recent blog entry written by Mark Ippolito here that encourages everybody to take an hour of their time each month and devote it to reaching out and helping somebody they know who is in career transition.  What a great concept, especially if you don’t wait for a person to ask you for this help, but volunteer it proactively, instead.  Such a gesture can go a long way to reviving the flagging spirits of a job hunter, even if the help you offer is of a fairly modest variety.  Mark has even created a Facebook page here where people can share stories about this “pay it forward” project.

On a related note, I know that I’ve personally referred three people along lately to a few of my former clients who are all extremely busy individuals.  And to their credit, each and every one of them stepped up to the plate and agreed to lend a hand!   While I’ll keep their names anonymous to protect the innocent, I’ll post a snippet of each of their e-mail responses, below, just so we can all bask in the spirit of their generosity…

•  “It would be my pleasure to speak with him.  Have him email me and I’ll have my admin set up a time we could meet and discuss career options with him. Thanks for thinking of me for this sort of thing.  I really enjoy giving someone tips on how to proceed with a career.”

•  “Please feel free to pass along my e-mail address to your client and I’d be happy to spend some time, either over the phone or in person, discussing career options in the SEO/SEM/Online marketing field.”

•  “Always happy to help out.  By the way, it really is no problem to shove people toward me who need some insight into

[my current company] since this is what Networking is all about, isn’t it? And I am pretty sure I am getting the better part of the deal anyway.”

Perhaps these short sentences don’t seem like much to some of you, but to me, they represent a layer of exciting evidence that people are starting to wake up and realize that generosity is a downright smart life strategy, plain and simple.  Who knows how these people will be repaid for their time, either by me, the person I referred along, or in some other way known only to the universe?  I’m just happy to count such people as friends in my own “community of contacts” and if each/any of you are reading this, my thanks, again!

And as a very appropriate ending to this post, I’d urge you to each click here and refresh yourself on a classic fable that addresses these exact issues — despite being over 2,000 years old!  Can we all learn something from this savvy lion, or what?